Eli Yishai, Rabbi Meir Mazuz
Eli Yishai, Rabbi Meir Mazuz Yaakov Naumi/Flash 90

Jerusalem Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, Rabbi Meir Mazuz, and Shas spiritual head Rabbi Shalom Cohen met Wednesday in Petach Tikva for the first time since the 2015 elections caused a deep divide between the Sephardi haredi leaders.

While the meeting was ostensibly planned to advance an initiative aiming to build 101 ritual baths across Israel, the Behadrei Haredim website reported that the summit's main purpose was to mediate between Rabbi Sholom Cohen and Rabbi Meir Mazuz, considered by many to be the leaders of the Sephardic haredi world.

Behadrei Haredim also reported that Shas leader Aryeh Deri was not present at the summit, noting that it spoke volumes in light of swirling rumors speaking of a split between the Deri and the Shas spiritual head in wake of Deri's ally Yigal Guetta having being forced out over attending a homosexual wedding.

Rabbi Shalom Cohen, who is the spiritual leader of the Shas political party, has been at odds with Rabbi Meir Mazuz ever since he backed former Shas leader Eli Yishai's Yahad party in the 2015 elections. Yishai had formed Yahad after being squeezed out of Shas by current leader Aryeh Deri, and Rabbi Meir Mazuz was the first prominent Sephardi rabbi to openly endorse Yishai, which Rabbi Cohen viewed as a betrayal.

Tensions increased after Rabbi Cohen made disparaging remarks about the yeshiva headed by Rabbi Meir Mazuz, following Yishai's departure from Shas.

In response, Mazuz accused Cohen of being disconnected from Shas voters. “Rabbi Shalom Cohen, he should be well, is a great Torah scholar, a righteous man, and a great intellectual, but he does not come down to the people and, therefore, he does not understand the common people,” Mazuz said while speaking at his Kisei Rachamim Yeshiva.