A review published in the Haaretz newspaper of a recent episode in Channel 20's television series about the lives of prominent Israeli rabbis, "They Go Before the Camp," turned into an all-out assault on the late rabbinic founder of the Shas party and former Chief Rabbi of Israel - stirring controversy and drawing harsh criticism.
"It is generally believed that Rabbi Ovadia Yosef was a genius," wrote Rogel Alper in Haaretz. "That is not to say he was smart." Alper added.
According to Alper, it is difficult for him to understand how someone who believes in the chosen-ness of the Jewish people can be wise despite the episode's evidence that Rabbi Yosef had a high IQ, excellent memory, and tremendous abilities of reason and deduction, even from an early age.
Alper expressed shock that a man gifted with so much intelligence would choose to devout himself so completely to Torah study instead of studying various academic fields like physics or economics. He went on to say that Rabbi Yosef's dedication to Torah study above other pursuits left him with a world-view "as narrow as an ant's" and lamented the loss of what Rabbi Yosef could have contributed to society if he had "broadened his horizons."
The Haaretz writer the broadened his attack, targeting the religious community at large and dismissing the entire pursuit of religious studies as "eccentric" since, in Alper's view, "there is no God." By bringing his atheism into the review, Alper dismisses religious life and its leaders. He goes on to call Rabbi Yosef "a fool," "stupid," while mocking his belief in God as "a metaphysical mistake."
Shas Chairman and Interior Minister Aryeh Deri blasted the article, calling it "a disgrace".
"Shame on the Haaretz newspaper. This morning's slander against Rabbi Ovadia Yosef is a disgrace. The rabbi's contributions to Israel and the Jewish world for generations to come are enormous."