SHAS (Hebrew : ש״ס, an acronym for שומרי ספרד
Shomrei Sfarad, lit., "(Religious) Guardians of the Sephardim") is an
ultra-Orthodox religious political party in Israel. Founded in 1984
under the leadership of
Ovadia Yosef , a former Israeli Sephardi
chief rabbi , who remained its spiritual leader until his death in
October 2013, it primarily represents the interests of Haredi
Originally a small ethnic political group,
Shas is currently Israel's
seventh-largest party in the
Knesset . Since 1984, it has almost
always formed a part of the governing coalition, whether the ruling
party was Labor or
Likud . As of 2015,
Shas members currently sit with
Likud in the government.
* 1 History
* 2 Ideology
* 3 Controversies
* 4 Women\'s campaign
* 6 References
* 7 External links
Aryeh Deri , chairman of
Shas was founded in 1984 prior to the elections to the eleventh
Knesset in the same year, in protest over the small representation of
Sephardim in the largely Ashkenazi
Agudat Yisrael , through the
merger of regional lists established in 1983. It was originally known
as WORLDWIDE SEPHARDIC ASSOCIATION OF TORAH GUARDIANS (Hebrew :
התאחדות הספרדים העולמית שומרי תורה,
Hitahdut ha-Sfaradim ha-Olamit Shomrey Tora). The party was formed
under the leadership of former Israeli Chief Sephardi
Yosef, who established a four-member (including himself) Council of
Torah Sages and remained the party's spiritual leader until his death.
In founding the party, Yosef received strategic help and guidance from
Elazar Shach , leader of Israel's non-
Hasidic Haredi Ashkenazi
Jews. Yosef founded the party in 1984 on the platform of a return to
religion, and as a counter to an establishment dominated by Ashkenazi
Jews of European extraction. Political poster for Shas,
Eli Yishai .
Shas voters are themselves ultra-Orthodox. Many of its voters
are Modern Orthodox and "traditional"
Mizrahi and Sephardi Jews, due
to its alignment with the promotion of an "authentic Middle Eastern"
Israeli culture , which fits with traditional
Zionist beliefs of a
revival of authentic, non-Europeanized
Jewish culture . However, it
still represents the Sephardi and
Mizrahi Haredi Jewish sectors in the
Shas has at times been able to exert disproportionate
influence by gaining control of the balance of power in the Knesset
within the context of the traditionally narrow margin between Israel's
large parties. Like its Labor
Zionist counterparts (i. e., Labor and
Meretz ) that gain votes from the kibbutz movement,
Shas gains votes
and supports from moshavim that are inhabited by
Mizrahi and Sephardi
Jews, either Orthodox or non-Orthodox. Also, since it became a member
Zionist Organization, it gains votes from settlers in the
Since 1999, the three cities where
Shas garners the most votes are
Netivot , and
In the elections to the eleventh
Knesset in 1984,
Shas won four
Aryeh Deri 's conviction on corruption charges in
Shas gained 17 seats in the 1999 elections , its strongest
showing since its formation. Although 26 seats were projected for the
following election had it run in 2001,
Shas was reduced to 11 seats in
the 2003 election because the two-ballot system was amended.
In the 2006 elections , it gained one more seat after running what
the BBC called "an aggressive campaign that targeted the
neo-conservative economic policies of the previous government", and
Ehud Olmert 's coalition government , alongside
Kadima , Labor
, Gil , and, between October 2006 and January 2008,
Yisrael Beiteinu .
In the government,
Shas party leader Yishai was minister of industry,
trade, and labor, and deputy prime minister , while
Ariel Atias was
minister of communications, and
Meshulam Nahari and
Yitzhak Cohen were
ministers without portfolio .
Following the 2009 elections , in which
Shas won eleven seats, it
Benjamin Netanyahu 's coalition government and held four
Eli Yishai , who led the party at that time, was one of
four deputy prime ministers, and minister of internal affairs .
On 4 December 2011,
Shas launched its United States affiliate,
American Friends of Shas, based in Brooklyn, New York.
Shas won 11 seats in the 2013 elections , but chose to form part of
the Labor opposition to Netanyahu's new government.
Yair Lapid of the
Yesh Atid party and
Naftali Bennett of
The Jewish Home , who had won
more seats and joined the coalition, both favored conscription of the
previously exempt Haredi men into Israel's national service and a
reduction in state financial support for Haredi families, policies
In December 2014,
Eli Yishai left the
Shas party, which he had led
for more than a decade. He said he would lead a new religious party in
the election scheduled for March 2015. His departure from
Aryeh Deri did not come as a surprise.
Ovadiah Yosef , spiritual leader of
The stated purpose of the party is to "return the crown to the former
glory", and to rectify what it sees as the "continued economic and
social discrimination against the Sephardic population of Israel".
Focusing on the needs of Sephardic Orthodox Israelis,
its own government-funded education system called MaAyan HaHinuch
HaTorani, which became popular in poor Sephardic towns, increasing the
party's popular support.
Shas advocates a state run according to
Halakha , the Jewish religious law, and actively engages in the Baal
teshuva movement , encouraging non-Orthodox Israelis of Sephardic and
Mizrahi-Jewish heritage to adopt an Orthodox Jewish lifestyle.
Shas is a Haredi religious party, but it has participated in
left-wing governments, and is often willing to compromise on both
religious and economic issues.
Shas followed a moderate policy on the
Israeli–Palestinian conflict , after Yosef had declared that lives
were more important than territories, but has since moved to the
right, and opposes any freeze in
Israeli settlement activity in the
West Bank . In addition, it was skeptical towards the U.S. Obama
Administration 's intentions regarding the Israeli–Palestinian peace
process , and has begun to support a consolidation of Israeli
settlement interests, especially regarding yeshivas and Jewish holy
sites in the West Bank. It further believes in a "United Jerusalem",
and supports the Greater
Jerusalem plan. In 2010,
Shas joined the
Zionist Organisation , having made significant changes to its
One of Shas's demands is a compensation package for Sephardi and
Mizrahi Jews who were forced to flee their home countries and leave
their property behind.
Shas opposes any form of public expression of homosexuality,
Gay Pride parades, especially in
Shas MK Nissim
Ze\'ev accused the homosexual community of "carrying out the
self-destruction of Israeli society and the Jewish people", calling
homosexuals "a plague as toxic as bird flu ". However, it officially
condemns any form of violence against gays and lesbians .
Shas MKs, including
Aryeh Deri ,
Rafael Pinhasi ,
Yair Levy ,
Ofer Hugi , and
Yair Peretz , have been convicted of criminal offenses
that include fraud and forgery. In addition, MK
Shlomo Benizri was
convicted of bribery, conspiring to commit a crime, and obstruction of
justice on 1 April 2008. Benizri resigned, and
Mazor Bahaina , number
thirteen on the
Shas list, replaced him. In 1999, Deri was sentenced
to prison time on corruption charges.
Ovadia Yosef cursed the Palestinians as "evil, bitter
enemies of Israel", and said that, "
Abu Mazen and all these evil
people should perish from this world. God should strike them with a
Saeb Erekat of the PLO said Yosef's remarks were tantamount
to a call for "genocide against Palestinians". Yosef later apologized,
and wrote to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak: "I support your efforts
and praise all the leaders and the peoples - Egyptians, Jordanians and
Palestinians - who are partners and wish the success of this important
process of achieving peace in our region, and preventing bloodshed.
May God grant you longevity and may you succeed in your efforts for
peace and may there be peace in our region." Previously, Yosef had
called Arabs "vipers", and called for
Israel to "annihilate" them.
"It is forbidden to be merciful to them. You must send missiles to
them and annihilate them. They are evil and damnable." A spokesman
later argued that his comments were only aimed at murderers and
terrorists, and not the entire Arab world.
Women activists protested the lack of female representation in Shas
by organizing a "No Female Candidate, No Female Vote" campaign. The
women said they would not vote for a party that does not include women
candidates on its slate, and sent an open letter to the Knesset
representatives of ultra-Orthodox parties, which was also circulated
on social media.
Rabbi Mordechai Blau, a senior party member,
threatened that women participating in the movement or bucking the
party leadership would find their children "banned from Haredi
schools", and their employers "boycotted by the community". Shas
announced that it would create a women's council within the movement,
a step that was welcomed by the campaigners. At the same time, they
said: "We will move forward and call on the Haredi factions to enable
women to serve as MKs in the Knesset."
Eli Yishai said on Israel
Radio: "There is nothing in Jewish law that says you can't have a
woman as a
Knesset member. But our rabbis decide what they decide on
every subject, and the same goes for this."
When a group of ultra-Orthodox women created their own party,
U\'Bizchutan , Isaac Bezalel, the Haredi
Shas Party spokesman, said:
"The Haredi public is not yet open to women serving in the Knesset."
Shas party ballot 2009
Shas candidates were elected to the 20th Knesset:
* Ya\'akov Margi