One of the prominent religious parties in Israel, intimately involved in political decision-making, has been the Shas party, led by the late Rabbi ‘Ovadia Yosef. This article examines four components of Rabbi Yosef’s political stance: (1) his view of Jewish religious law as a factor that moderates the force of changes of seemingly historical and revolutionary significance; (2) his opposition to radical messianism; (3) his desire to adopt independent positions; and (4) his role in the development of a Mizrahi, ultra-Orthodox stream of Zionism.
This article focuses on the Israeli ethno-religious party Shas and its role in the Israeli social and political structure. It is argued that while Shas functions successfully in Israel’s Western-style political system, it does so as a more typical “Middle Eastern” party. Thus understanding the context within which Shas operates and its relation to political and societal divisions offers an insight into Israeli society and its political system.