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PA President Abbas sends condolences to Yosef family

US and UK ambassadors join mourners of revered rabbi, hailing a ‘wise and learned’ man’s ‘love for mankind’

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Mahmoud Abbas prays with members of the PLO Executive Committee, Ramallah, May 28, 2013 (photo credit: Isaam Rimawi/Flash90)
Mahmoud Abbas prays with members of the PLO Executive Committee, Ramallah, May 28, 2013 (photo credit: Isaam Rimawi/Flash90)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas paid tribute to the late Shas leader and former chief rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who died Monday at the age of 93.

During a meeting with 12 MKs at his office in Ramallah, Abbas asked the Israeli lawmakers to send his condolences to the revered rabbi’s family in the name of the Palestinian people.

He recalled that he had met in the past “with members of the family” of Yosef — a reference to Yosef’s daughter — and asked the Israeli legislators to “please pass my condolences” to the rabbi’s relatives.

The Palestinian leader’s words surprised some Israelis, as they recalled that Yosef had cursed Abbas just three years ago.

“May all the nasty people who hate Israel, such as Abbas, vanish from our world. May God strike them down with the plague along with all the nasty Palestinians who persecute Israel,” Yosef was quoted as having said in 2010.

However, during a meeting last year with Israeli peace activists among whom was the rabbi’s oldest daughter, Adina Bar-Shalom, Abbas asked to send his regards to Yosef, expressing the hope of one day meeting with the rabbi.

Condolences also arrived quickly from the American and British ambassadors to Israel.

“Rav Ovadia Yosef was a spiritual leader to hundreds of thousands, if not more, a great studier [of Torah] and a wise and learned man, a father to an impressive family and an important contributor to the society and politics of the state of Israel,” US Ambassador Dan Shapiro said in a Hebrew statement. “Today in Jerusalem and all across Israel, his supporters and followers mourn him. To them, and first and foremost to his beloved family, I send my condolences. May his memory be blessed.”

“I had the honor of meeting him, and of seeing his extraordinary spirit and learning,” UK ambassador to Israel Matthew Gould said of Yosef. “I was honored to witness first-hand his love for mankind and his wish for peace. I send my sincere condolences to his family, Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, and the whole of the Shas movement.”

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