Hundreds of predominantly ultra-Orthodox protesters in Jerusalem lit garbage cans on fire and threw stones at police Wednesday to demonstrate against the limited visiting hours at the cemetery in which former Sephardic Chief Rabbi Rabbi Ovadia Yosef is buried.
A large detachment of police officers was dispatched to the scene on Bar-Ilan Street to control the situation.
The Sanhedria Cemetery closes each evening, a policy which protesters said restricts their access to the late Shas party leader’s grave. One of the protesters told Israel National News that the cemetery must be open around the clock, “to recite psalms and request mercy for the people of Israel.”
Demonstrators held up signs, including one that read: “Let us prostrate before the grave of the Maran [Yosef].”
“I don’t know who thought of putting a gate around the grave, but I’m sure that won’t work,” the unnamed protester said. “No barrier, wall or gate will prevent the lovers of [Yosef] from coming to pray in the cemetery.”
Yosef, an outspoken leader of Sephardi Jewry, passed away in October at age 93 in a Jerusalem hospital, sparking outpourings of grief from across a rainbow of Israeli society, though his passing was most deeply felt in the large, and largely traditional, Sephardi community.
After his death, several hundred thousand people crowded Jerusalem’s streets and alleys outside the Sanhedria cemetery to pay their last respects to Yosef.
Yosef was remembered as a leader of the Shas party, a political kingmaker but also a genius of Torah who brought thousands closer to Jewish halacha through lenient rulings.