Rabbi Shalom Cohen
Rabbi Shalom CohenIsrael news photo: Flash 90

Sources close to Rabbi Shalom Cohen said on Sunday that when he branded "knitted kippot " wearers as “Amalek,” he did not mean to disparage all religious Zionists, but only the leadership of the Bayit Yehudi party.

"The words that were spoken last night in a lesson at the study hall of Maran [Rabbi Ovadia Yosef] were spoken in great pain and were only intended toward the leaders of the Bayit Yehudi and their supporters, who have declared war upon the world of Torah and yeshivot,” the sources said.

"G-d forbid that things like this should be directed against the general public of Israel, who can be weighed against gold,” they added.

Rabbi Cohen has refused to take back his cruel invective against the religious Zionists. When contacted by Arutz Sheva after the initial publication of the sermon, he simply said, “leave me alone and don't bother me.”

Analyst Shlomo Pyotrkovsky explained Sunday that the harsh attack by the rabbi reflects the deep concern in Shas, that the party is about to lose its 20-year-long hold on the position of Chief Sephardic Rabbi. Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, who was mentioned by Rabbi Cohen, is a candidate for the position. Other candidates include three of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef's sons, but their chances have been lessened by the competition between them. In addition, Shas may have shot itself in the foot by removing support for a bill that would have enabled the current Chief Sephardic Rabbi, Rabbi Shlomo Amar, to run for another term.