Except for one hasidic daily, the entire Ashkenazi haredi press was silent about the hospitalization of the Sefardi haredi Shas political party’s founder and spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the greatest Sefardi haredi rabbinic scholar of this generation. But don't worry, haredi insiders say – this is just rabbinicallyordered business as usual.
Where Rabbis Don’t Get Sick And Readers Don’t Care Even If They Do: The Strange And Convoluted World Of Haredi Newspaper ‘Journalism’
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
Israel’s President Shimon Peres called his hospital bed to wish him well. Israel’s secular newspapers all published articles about his hospitalization on Shabbat after an apparent stroke.
But except for one hasidic daily, Ynet reports, the entire Ashkenazi haredi press was silent about the hospitalization of the Sefardi haredi Shas political party’s founder and spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the greatest Sefardi haredi rabbinic scholar of this generation.
Hamevaser, Yated Ne'eman and Hapeles (the Yated Ne'eman breakaway) were all silent.
Only the hasidic daily Hamodia mentioned Yosef's hospitalization.
All four papers are effectively controlled by various Ashkenazi haredi political factions and senior Ashkenazi haredi rabbis.
However, haredi news websites, which are far more independent (and sometimes even gently subversive) published dozens of reports and updates on Yosef’s condition, and haredi radio stations reportedly had special broadcasts focusing on Yosef’s ilness.
Some of Yosef’s Sefardi haredi followers claimed that political and halakhic disagreements between Yosef and leading Ashkenazi haredi rabbis had so upset the Ashkenazi papers’ editors that they are now unable care about Yosef’s health and wellbeing – even though the 92-year-old Yosef is acknowledged to be “one of the greatest [rabbis] of the generation."
They pointed out that Shas’ own publication Yom Leyom offered comprehensive reports about similar incidents when they happened to Ashkenazi haredi rabbinic leaders.
"I can only try to speak positively about the haredi journalists and editors who didn’t write a word about Rabbi Ovadia's hospitalization and the prayers. They must be aware of the fact that they are complete villains and that any prayer on their part will only ruin things and hurt our rabbi even more. So I understand why they avoided publishing the matter,” former Shas spokesman Itzik Sudri, an associate of Rabbi Yosef, sarcastically told Ynet.
A senior member of Yated Ne’eman’s editorial board claimed that when Ashkenazi haredi rival Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach was hospitalized last month, Yated Ne’eman did not mention it because it did not want to be accused of "malicious joy.”
Then when Yosef fell ill, members of Yated Ne’eman’s rabbinic committee ruled that the paper should not cover Yosef’s similar medical crisis because he is the leader of a different community.
"Perhaps we could have found a solution and posted an ad calling on the public to pray for his recovery, and then it would allegedly not have been on behalf of the paper. But, thank God, the rabbi's condition was not that serious,” " the source told Ynet.
He also claimed that Yated Ne'eman did not write about the hospitalization of haredi leader Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman several months ago for the same reason. Shteinman controls Yated Ne’eman.
Yaakov Porush, director of Hamevaser's editorial board, said that his paper’s decision to ignore Yosef's illness was because Yosef’s family did not ask for a report to be published.
"Hamevaser is the only [Ashkenazi] haredi daily with personal contact with the rabbi's home, and everything they ask for is included in the paper.…they didn't ask for it, and in sensitive situations like these we definitely wouldn't have done it without a request on their part.
"Usually, when one of the great sages of Israel doesn’t feel well, we include a report only at the request of the family members, because it's sensitive – and that's what we did in this case as well,” Porush told Ynet.
The CEO of Hapeles, Yaakov Levine, made the same basic claim, noting that if the families of these rabbis ask for an article calling on people to pray for the sage, Hapeles would publish it. Otherwise, there was no reason, he claimed, to report the illness, noting that Hapeles did not cover the recent illness of its own spiritual leader Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach. Levine also insisted that the health of haredi leaders are issues Hapeles did not normally cover because haredim don’t really care about them.
"This is gossip which the public has no interest in," Levine he reportedly said.
Tens of thousands of pageviews of reports on these rabbis’ illnesses posted on haredi news websites would seem to conclusively prove Levine wrong.