Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef disparaged the religious Zionist community in Israel, in particular the Hesder yeshivot and yeshiva high schools.
During his weekly lecture on Saturday night, Rabbi Yosef said: "A man whose father tells him to go to a yeshiva high school or to a Hesder yeshiva, and he responds 'my soul is bound up with the Torah. I can learn Torah all day. You do it for those who are unable, who can't learn, what do you do with them? So they set it up for the 'remnants' with that explanation for why they were doing it. But as a first resort [for those who are capable of learning full-time]? They should only be sent to the holy yeshivot."
He said, "We also have problems. But let's say there are a million haredim, two million haredim, and there are a few hundred at most [who have problems]. But with them? They have so many problems. Some drop out of yeshiva, some drop out of high school. Some have problems with spirituality. with all kinds of external things and the like."
He recounted an episode from his youth. "When we lived in Tel Aviv I had a study partner during the summer break. Today he is a great sage, a wise scholar, but then he wore a knitted kippah. Maran (Rabbi Ovadiya Yosef) would see that he came to my house wearing a knitted kippah and would ask him: "what do you connect to in the Hesder yeshivot? What do you connect to in the yeshiva high schools? The Rav did not understand this. I told him: 'Father, everything is fine. His outlook is fine. He supports the holy yeshivot."
"When the Rav was young, they later asked what is the correct outlook. What, a Hesder yeshiva, a yeshiva high school? No, only the holy yeshivot," Rabbi Yosef said.
The office of the Sephardic Chief Rabbi responded to the report: "It is unfortunate that the author chooses to quote the words of Rishon Lezion selectively and not for the first time and without requesting a response. Rishon Lezion expressed great appreciation for the Hesder Yeshivas along with the obvious statement that Torah study is the most sublime and desirable value, without diminishing much of his appreciation for the Hesder Yeshivas in which he frequently teaches lessons. All of us together, haredim, national religious and Torah lovers, we will continue to work together to strengthen the world of Torah and the Jewish identity in the people of Israel."