Rav Ovadia Yosef
Rav Ovadia Yosef Israel news photo: Flash 90

After the Likud, Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua and Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid, Habayit Hayehudi (Jewish Home) was attacked on Saturday by the Shas party’s spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, whose numbers are dwindling according to the polls.

During his weekly Torah lesson on Saturday night, Rabbi Yosef chose to slam the party, which is headed towards being the Knesset’s third largest party after Tuesday's election.

“These are religious people?” he said. “They come to uproot the Torah. Those who elect them deny the Torah, this is the Jewish Home? This is the Jewish Home of the gentiles.”

He added, “They come to promote civil marriage, to promote public transportation on Shabbat, these are religious people? You cannot call them religious, you must not vote for them.”

Rabbi Yosef’s ostensible reason for the attack was a statement by Jewish Home candidate Ayelet Shaked, a traditional but not normatively religious woman, who said she was in favor of civil marriages.

Rabbi Yosef was probably also irked by the fact that Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett had publicly declared that his party would like to have the Ministry of Religious Affairs, currently held by Shas, in the next government. Factually, it is impossible to reconcile Bayit Yehudi's having Torah scholar Rabbi Eli Ben Dahan on the list as well as religious leaders Nissan Slomiansky and Avi Wortsman, who have done much to spread Torah education - as well as two women with head coverings - with the Rabbi's accusations.

The Jewish Home responded to the harsh criticism without attacking Shas or the rabbi and said, “Rabbi Ovadia Yosef is an important spiritual leader of many communities in Israel, and we revere and respect him.”

“The goal of the Jewish Home,” added the party’s statement, “is to be a bridge between the parts of society and we will continue to do so. If we are being attacked by all parties at the same time, it must mean we are doing something right.”

The Shas attack came after Bennett’s party was attacked over comments made by another candidate on its list, Jeremy Gimpel.

Gimpel came under attack as an "extremist" - the left's word for Bayit Yehudi, as opposed to the Shas claim of their not being extreme enough -  on TV's Channel 2 on Friday night, when a video of him jokingly telling a Christian group that the Dome of the Rock would one day be blown up was shown.

MK Yoel Hasson of Tzipi Livni's Hatnua later filed a motion with the Elections Committee to disqualify Gimpel over the taken-out-of-context banter.

In his motion to Elections Committee Chairman Judge Elyakim Rubinstein, Hasson claimed that "the delusional and moonstruck list" fielded by the Bayit Yehudi "aspires to set the Middle East on fire and start World War 3." Some saw Hasson's words as delusional in themselves.

If these weren’t enough, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu also attacked the Jewish Home on Saturday, over its supposed “exclusion of women.”

Likud's campaign ads have portrayed the Bayit Yehudi list as being male-chauvinistic, despite the fact that there are three women in the first dozen people on the list, and only one woman in Likud Beytenu’s first 12 names.

Netanyahu told Channels 2 and 10 that he is not ruling out adding any party to the coalition. "Our principles are very clear," he stated. Regarding Bennett, he said, "I was happy to hear that he corrected his statement [about refusing orders to evict Jews from their homes]. I refuse to accept refusal of orders and the exclusion of women."

"Most of the religious Zionist public opposes the exclusion of women and disobeying orders, and that is a good thing, and they will continue to receive their representation within Likud," he added.

Behind the attacks across the board is the fact that most polls have shown that the Jewish Home will be the third largest party in the Knesset, after the Likud Beytenu and Labor. One poll released on Thursday even showed Bennett’s party passing Labor and achieving 17 seats, making it the second largest party.