700,000 mourners attend Israel's largest ever funeral for orthodox rabbi
'What will become of us? Who will lead us?' becomes rallying cry
Founding the ultra-orthodox Jewish party Shas in 1984, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef lent his support to marginalized Jews from the Middle East and Northern Africa. He has died at the age of 93 after complications with kidney surgery and a "total failure of body systems." More than 700,000 mourners clogged the streets of Jerusalem in Israel's largest funeral ever to honor the great man.
Founding the orthodox Jewish party Shas in 1984, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef lent his support to marginalized Jews from the Middle East and Northern Africa.
With the streets cluttered, the best view was from up high. Not exchanging a word, the men clutch their faces in despair.
Shas leader Arye Deri, now in opposition, wailed, "What will become of us? Who will lead us? Who will take his place?" Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in attendance made a statement expressing his "deep sorrow" for "wisest man."
Hundreds of thousands of ultra-orthodox Jews attend the funeral of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. It is the largest funeral procession in the country's history according to police.
Police tried desperately to control the crowds clamoring to stand near the spiritual leader's body on the day of his death, as per Jewish tradition.
The procession began at 6 p.m. from the capital's Geula neighborhood and finished 1km away at the Sanhedriya cemetery, where he was buried.
The procession started in the district of Geula and ended at Sanhedriya cemetery.
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef was an arbiter of Halacha (Jewish law) and promoted rights for Jews emigrated from the Middle East and North Africa. Around 100 followers spent the night and day standing outside his ward in Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem after doctors announced the situation was critical as they tried to control "a total failure of his body systems."
Family members and hospital officials made several pleas for well-wishers to not crowd the area, local media reported.
More than half a million of his followers attended the funeral, clambering over walls and buildings to play their part in the ceremony bidding farewell to a leader many brand as irreplaceable.
Prior to his passing, Israeli President Shimon Peres visited Yosef's bedside at 11 a.m., cutting short a meeting with the Czech prime minister. Peres reportedly held Yosef's hand and said goodbye before saying a prayer outside the room.
His followers wail as they clamor to get near the body of the Iraqi-born sage. Yosef turned an Israeli underclass of Sephardic Jews of Middle Eastern heritage into a powerful political force.
When staff informed the supporters of his death, they wept and one woman fainted.
Arye Deri, leader of the ultra-religious Shas political party declared that "The sun has been extinguished. The whole day I waited to be able to tell you that we are taking him home healthy and well."
Desperate to glimpse their icon, boys climbed rooftops - the closest they could get as thousands swarmed the ground below.
Men young and old bowed their heads solemnly at the news. Many of Middle Eastern and African descent were thankful he celebrated their heritage.
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