300,000 expected Sunday at Ovadia Yosef memorial

300,000 expected Sunday at Ovadia Yosef memorial

Jerusalem police to close off streets ahead of event, which marks end of seven traditional days of mourning

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to take part in a memorial Sunday for the late Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, marking the end of the traditional seven-day shiva mourning period.

Police plan to close roads in certain neighborhoods of the capital and deploy thousands of officers, border policemen, and security personnel to secure the event, which is scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m. Some 300,000 people are expected to attend, authorities said.

From mid-morning Sunday, police are to begin closing off streets around the Sanhedria cemetery where Yosef is buried and roads leading to the adjacent Bar-Ilan Junction. The cemetery itself is to close to the public at 2 p.m.

The memorial ceremony will be led by a gathering of Shas party leaders and prominent rabbis.

Yosef’s funeral, on Monday last week, drew according to police estimates over 800,000 people, making it the largest funeral in the country’s history. The massive crowd, which gathered from all over the country, all but shut down much of the city and the arriving vehicles and buses temporarily blocked the main entrance to Jerusalem.

President Shimon Peres visiting the sukkah of Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef on Tuesday (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
President Shimon Peres visiting the sukkah of Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef in 2012. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Yosef, a former chief rabbi regarded as the leading Sephardic rabbi of the generation and the spiritual mentor of the Shas political party, died last Monday aged 93.

Police warned Sunday that private vehicles will not be given access to the memorial, and advised those planning to attend to make use a network of buses arranged for their benefit. Police also appealed to the public to not gather on rooftops, where there is a serious danger that inadequate safety railings could collapse.

At the funeral last week, hundreds of people crowded onto roofs and balconies to get a better view of the proceedings. Emergency services treated around 300 people during the hours-long procession, which, due to the difficulty in moving Yosef’s funeral vehicle through the throngs of people, took much longer than initially planned. No serious injuries were reported.

A police hotline providing information on which roads are closed and traffic updates is to operate between 2 and 11 p.m. at 1-700-553-100.

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