This Time, Shas is for Real

Ladies and Gentlemen, do not be fooled.

The newly-forged partnership between two young, dynamic and vastly intelligent Israeli leaders is no joke.

Eli Yishai and Aryeh Deri are together again. They have buried the hatchet, see squarely eye to eye – and are peering into the future, in the same direction, working together for the same goals.

The two leaders of Shisha Sidrei Torah (Shas), the Sephardi Religious party led by Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef, are sitting together in Israel’s Channel 2 National Television studio, smiling at each other and virtually slapping each other on the back.

Imagine. These two men –  bitter political rivals, who have not been able to be in the same room together for more than 12 years – are now swept up in a pervasive, infectious and unexpected optimism about the future. This optimism is wedging them together, at first against their will but now mutual, to cruise towards a common goal – to get half of the country or more to vote for them and their party.

It’s as if President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney were to show up at NBC TV’s New York City studios, hands around each other’s backs, announcing to the world that they had agreed to set up a new form of government, whereby there would be two Presidents, not one!

Eli Yishai and Aryeh Deri are experienced leaders who are cut from the  same cloth. They know each other the way 7 year-olds playing basketball at the local park know each other. And their goals, not surprisingly, are the very same: to create a momentum whereby their party’s view – and the world view of their brilliant and controversial spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef – becomes the common heritage of Israelis, and a driving force in Israel’s policy decisions, domestic and foreign.

Rabbi Yosef is their spiritual leader, and Shas, which draws from the deepest wellsprings of the Sephardi (North African and Muslim countries) zeitgeist of half of the Israeli population, is their vehicle for change.


About the Author
Yisrael Rosenberg is a former New Englander who made aliyah 30 years ago. He lives with his wife and four children in Jerusalem.