President Shimon Peres paid a condolence call Sunday to Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, whose eldest son, Rabbi Yaakov Yosef, died Friday after a yearlong battle with pancreatic cancer.
Peres referred to the late Rabbi Yosef as a “remarkable” man. “The rabbi was his own man with a phenomenal memory,” Peres said. “He went from place to place teaching Torah.”
Yaakov Yosef, 66, the rabbi of Jerusalem’s Givat Moshe neighborhood and a far more hardline political figure than his father, suffered a multi-system failure early last week.
Tens of thousands of mourners flocked to Jerusalem’s Har Hamenuhot cemetery on Friday before sundown to pay their final respects at Yosef’s funeral.
Relations between Yosef and his father, who served as Israel’s chief Sephardi rabbi in the 1970s, were strained at times, largely due to ideological differences. Yaakov favored more hardline halachic interpretations than his father, including on matters of land for peace. Ovadia Yosef favored offering territory to the Palestinians for the sake of a peace agreement, while his son said such deals were forbidden.
Yaakov Yosef was one of the founders of the Shas party, and served as an MK in the 11th Knesset and as a Jerusalem city councilman with the ultra-Orthodox party. During his term, he quarreled with the faction and even accused the party of being corrupt. Yosef’s father denied the allegations and called his son’s accusations an “outright lie,” leading to a rift between him and his son. The younger Yosef eventually left his father’s party.
The son also endorsed the ostensible duty of soldiers to refuse orders to evacuate settlements, and backed rulings against renting homes to Arabs.
Father and son were said to have improved relations in recent years.
In 2011, Yosef was called in for questioning by the police for endorsing the book “Torat Hamelech,” which promoted the murder of non-Jews under certain circumstances. Yosef refused to respond to the police’s request and was arrested. He was later released and the police closed the case against him without pressing charges.