JERUSALEM (May. 16)
Right-wing settlers clashed over the weekend with fervently Orthodox supporters of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the spiritual leader of the Shas party, over the influential rabbi’s backing of the Labor-led government’s peace policies.
Settlers demonstrating outside of Yosef’s home, protesting Shas’ participation as a partner of the ruling coalition, were assaulted by hundreds of Yosef’s adherents Saturday evening. Two settlers suffered serious wounds.
Ironically, the clash came as Shas was in the midst of a political crisis with Labor and threatened to pull out of the coalition, though over issues unrelated to the peace process.
The settlers, led by Rabbi Menahem Felix, have been staging a sit-in strike for the past four weeks, in protest of the ongoing alliance between Shas and the Labor Party.
Yosef supporters regarded the demonstration as an unacceptable attempt to drag their rabbi into politics, and a personal harassment of their leader.
The weekend clash followed an outburst by Yosef in front of his followers during the weekly Torah lesson.
The rabbi reportedly burst into tears, complaining that the demonstrating settlers were making life miserable for his family and would not leave him in peace.
The complaint apparently was enough to spur his adherents into settling accounts with the settlers.
Shortly before midnight Saturday, supporters of Yosef showed up at his house, in Jerusalem’s prestigious Talbiyeh neighborhood, and physically attacked the demonstrators.
Felix and another settler were injured in the face and rushed to the hospital. Yosef’s followers then threw furniture into the street and set it afire.
The settlers filed complaints with the police against the attackers, as well as against Yosef himself.
In response, dozens of settlers showed up at Yosef’s residence Sunday morning, in a gesture of solidarity with the sit-in strikers, led by Felix, who had returned from the hospital.