Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the 93-year-old spiritual leader of the Shas party, regained consciousness Wednesday afternoon, and was responsive and aware of his surroundings. Doctors said, however, that after over a week in the hospital, he remained in serious condition.
“Compared to previous days, we see an improvement,” said the rabbi’s doctor, Dr. Dan Gilon of Hadassah Medical Center at Ein Kerem in Jerusalem. “What stands out most is the degree of awakening of the rabbi. He is, in fact, fully conscious.”
Gilon also told assembled reporters that Yosef still needed partial respiratory assistance, but the dosage of his medications had been substantially reduced.
Channel 2 reported that family members helped the rabbi put on tefillin — phylacteries — for the first time since he was hospitalized.
Yosef, a former chief rabbi and one of Israel’s most prominent religious figures, was hospitalized September 21 and underwent surgery to install a temporary pacemaker. Since September 23, he had been sedated and attached to a respirator.
While Yosef was unconscious, Gilon said the rabbi had problems with his kidneys, heart and lungs, and his condition was “life-threatening all the time, given his age.”
The rabbi has been hospitalized a number of times in the past few months as his health has deteriorated, including a 10-day stint at the same hospital a month ago.
On top of steering Shas, the fifth-largest party in Knesset and the political voice for many of the country’s Sephardic Jews, Yosef also heads the Badatz Beit Yosef kashrut certification organization — a business reportedly worth tens of millions of shekels. A number of his sons and relatives serve as municipal rabbis, controlling kosher certification, and one son, Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, was recently elected chief Sephardic rabbi.
Since founding the Shas party, Yosef has always dictated its candidate lists for each election.