Shas is an Israeli political party. It is an Orthodox party of Sephardic Jews. Their main proclaimed goals are getting more money for yeshivot, keeping Orthodox Jews out of the army and promoting religious education in Israel. They also help out people in remote areas, where the quality of living is very low, mostly by building religious schools and suchlike there. They also believe in the judicial powers of God, and publicly mock and ignore the state's justice system.

Shas is led by a senile rabbi. (I am not being mean, it's the truth. Okay, so I am being mean, but it's still the truth.) The rabbi's name is Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. You can read about his interesting proclamations in The Rabbi has Spoken! and in his node (here). The rabbi is not a member of parliament, but all the Shas MP's will do what he says. They all vote the same way, always: his way. The leader of Shas (in the parliament), is currently Eli Yishai. It used to be Arie Deri'i, but he was imprisoned for embezzlement, bribe taking, etc. etc. He will be out in a year, and will go back to leading the party.

All major Israeli politicians have been known to go to Rabbi Yosef, to kiss his ass, as Shas is so powerful. About a year ago, he effectively called out to murder Prime Minister Ehud Barak, and no one put him to trial, because everyone was too scared of what might happen if they did. (Yes, Israel is a democracy, believe it or not!) Shas now have 17 MPs, which is an incredible amount. They all believe Deri'i is innocent. Actually, that's crap. All the senior members of Shas are well known to perform about any conceivable crime to do with money. Bribery, embezzlement, you name it. They make fictitious yeshivot and take money for them, they get millions of money every year, and time and time again we wonder where it goes. And yet their followers are blind to all of this. They believe Deri'i is innocent. Shas helps the poor in rural areas more than anyone else. The fact that Shas makes sure that they never get out of the circle of poverty, so that they will keep on voting for them, eludes them.

So Shas remains the 3rd most powerful party in Israel, and continue to pass improbable laws and make fun of the democracy.

SHAS IN THE CURRENT ELECTION CAMPAIGN

On Tuesday, the much harried citizens of Israel will go the polls, and most possibly knock a few seats out of Shas for the benefit of Shinui a radically secular, centrist-on-peace new Israeli party run by anti-charismatic professor Tommy Lapid and a bunch of unknowns. (The Israeli papers are referring to the party as "Tommy and the drwarves"). In the runup to the election Shas, described quite competently above, has been running the strangest series of election ads probably yet seen in a democracy, and a short description of them is probably in order.

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(The ad begins: a group of old Jews, coverred in talis are praying in a small local synagogue. Suddenly, the sound of ram horns. The camera shifts to the wailing wall where pigeons fly up over the yellow brick of the remains of the second temple. The camera shifts again to show Rabbi Obadya Yosef himself.)

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The rabbi is dressed in a silken outfit with embroidered patterns, a Turban (since when do Jews wear Turbans?) and a pair of amber-tinted Armani sunglasses. He begins to speak. "Our enemies have a plan to destroy our nation! They're bringing in Non-Jews! And those Non-Jews build churches! And then the bring in pigs! And they eat the pigs! And this is what they intend to keep doing, building more churches and bringing more pigs!" (Background: Pentecostal churches baptizing Jews in the Kineret. Pigs being led to the slaughterhouse in the Holy Land of Israel. More churches, then more pigs.)

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A young charismatic Jew, more clean shaven and dynamic looking than the others (he's the head of the party, but drat, I've forgotten his name) then dominates the screen. "Rabotai!" he says (Rabotai is an untranslatable Jewish word meaning O ye assembled, but also implies loving brotherhood, and dates, as you would expect such a word do date, back to a more pure, loving time - the Babylonian exile. "Everyone is promising you a Palestinian country, both the parties on the right, both the parties of the left! But only Shas is promising you a JEWISH country! My brothers and Rabotai, in ten years the Palestinians will be the numerical majority on the West of the Jordan! Only by unity will we remain strong! Vote for Shas and we'll ensure a Jewish nation!"

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(Lord how I wish I were making this part up) The screen now shifts to a big rally in a football stadium. Thousands? Multiudes? Of realatively well dressed Jews from the Arab Nations gather to sing - a Ricky Martin song. Only the words have been changed: "Brothers come and vote for Shas! Imagine in your minds that through your efforts you wake up one morning and Shas is victorious! Shas is victorious! Come on everyone! It's time to vote for Shas! Wake up everyone, support the party: Shas! And then tomorrow Imagine that Shas is victorious....shas is victorious! (and finally, as the screen shows more and more people praying and singing like in a Baptist revival church, until the crowds are filled with tens of thousands of their supporters, the music crescendoes, until there is only one image! The new young leader of the party next to the old Senile rabbi in front of a Sefer Torah as a voice half shouts, half expirates "SHAS!". (Music descends. The ad is over.)

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I am proud to say that as this campaign has become more and more rabid, Shas has been losing in the polls to a variety of parties, but mainly it's exact opposite the Secular Shinui, whose ads consists of a cute little blue block with hands and feet forcing it's way into the graph showing the government coalition, after which Professor Lapid treats us to a two minute Perot-style speech in a horrible nasal voice. Ah, politics!.

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