Knesset to Memorialize Mishpachas Abuchatzeirah Following Murder of Baba Elazar


baba-sali1The Knesset Education, Culture, and Sports Committee headed by MK Zevulun Orlev met today to discuss a motion by MK David Azulai to include the heritage of Rav Yisrael Abuhatzeira, popularly known as the Baba Sali, in Israel’s school curriculum.

The move comes as Israel mourns the loss of the Baba Sali’s grandson, Rav Elazar, who was murdered last night.

“The Baba Sali was very humble, his house was open to all Jews, he did not rule or try to gain honor, quite the opposite. All he cared about was the Jewish people and the Torah,” MK Azulai said.

“He was first and foremost, a great Torah scholar, people know about the wonders he performed, people came to get blessing, charms, but his kabbalistic powers were based on his Talmudic knowledge. His house was simple and unadorned, not for lack of people trying to give him material goods.

“His children also went to off the beaten track places. Rav Elazar went to Beer Sheva, all of them just want to serve the Jewish people without fanfare in the merit of their forebears.

“We can still say that we got a blessing from the Baba Sali, there is no one alive who can say that anymore about the Chafetz Chaim or the Chida,” Azulai added.

A Distinguished Family

The Baba Sali was the scion of a distinguished family of Sephardic Torah scholars widely acclaimed as tzaddikim (saints) baalei mofet (miracle workers).

The patriarch of this family was Rav Shmuel Abuhatzeira. Born in Israel, Rav Shmuel lived in Damascus for a while, where he studied Torah together with Rav Chaim Vital. In Shem Hagedolim, the Chida described Rav Shmuel as “an ish Elokim kadosh (a holy man of God). Wise people speak of his might and wonders insaving the Jewish community from many difficulties.”

Rav Shmuel and his family eventually moved to the city of Tafilalt, Morocco, where Rav Shmuel’s son Moshe beecame the rav of the city. Rav Moshe’s son, Yaakov, known as the “Abir Yaakov,: succeeded his father as Rav of Tafilalt.

Rav Yaakov’s eldest son, Moshe, became an av beit din in the same city, and it was here that his son, Yisrael, the man who would become the Baba Sali, was born on Rosh Hashanah 5650 (1890).

The name Abuchatzeira was not the family’s original name. Originally it was Elbaz, the grandfather Rav Masoud was named Elbaz. When he came to Israel, he traveled on a large type of barge or raft and in Moroccan that is called a chatzeira, which is the source of the name-owner of the raft.

Early Life

The Baba Sali grew up in a home permeated with Torah study and holy behavior. His family lived on a large estate which included a yeshiva where young scholars studied night and day. The beit din (Ravnical court) of his father, Rav Moshe, was also located on the premises. His older brother, Rav David, studied by himself in an attic.

It is said on he rare times that Rav Moshe traveled, he would cover his eyes with his cape to avoid seeing inappropriate sights – a practice the Baba Sali himself emulated in his own life.

As a child, the Baba Sali was a diligent Torah scholar, studying day and night. At the age of 12, he began to fast during the six weeks of Shovavim. Knowing his parents would not let him continue, he hid his fasting from them, but his brother, David, noticed how weak and pale he was. Though David urged him to stop, he continued his fasting.

After his bar mitzvah, the Baba Sali entered his family’s yeshiva, where the students rose at midnight for Tikkun Chatzot and then studied Kabbalistic works until dawn, when they would go to the mikveh, pray the morning service, and eat breakfast. This was followed by in-depth Talmud study, the afternoon prayers, and Halakha study.

The Baba Sali was an ascetic from a young age who is said to have only eaten on the Sabbath and eschewed meat. At the age of 16, he married Freha Amsalem.


During World War I, after France had taken over many parts of North Africa, Mulai Muhammad led a rebellion against the French in the region near Tafilalt and drove out the occupying army. Three years later, the French came back to shell the rebel’s strongholds, which were located near the Jewish districts.

As the conflict increased, Mulai Muhammed placed a ban on anyone entering or leaving Tafilalt. His campaign against the French extended to the Jews as well; he accused several Jews of being French collaborators and had them executed. Shortly after Hanukkah 1920, Mulai Muhammed issued a decree to massacre the Jews of Tafilalt.

Rav David, Rav Yisrael’s brother and now rav of Tafilalt, was trying to calm his frightened townsmen when Mulai Muhammed’s soldiers came to arrest him. He was strapped to a cannon and shot to death. The Jews of Tafilalt had to bribe the rebel leader to release his body for burial.

After this incident, the Jewish population of Tafilalt fled to the nearby city of Arpud, and then to the city of Bodniv. In Bodniv, Rav Yisrael was asked to succeed his brother as rav, but he refused. It was his desire to immigrate to Israel and publish his brother’s Torah writings.

In 1922, Rav Israel journeyed through Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt (where he visited the grave of his grandfather, the Abir Yaakov), then boarded a ship to Jaffa port and set out for Jerusalem.

He stayed in Jerusalem for a year, living at the home of Rav Yosef Yitzchak Shloush, who helped him publish his brother’s writings. Then he returned to Bodniv, where he accepted the position of Rav and head of the Jewish court there.


Over the next three decades the Baba Sali visited Israel three times, but finally chose to immigrate in 1952.

At first the Baba Sali settled in Lod, not far from his brother Rav Yitzchak, who lived in nearby Ramle. But when he was offered the position of rav of Lod, he moved to Jerusalem. There he rented a small apartment in the Baka neighborhood, and devoted himself solely to Torah study at the He studied the Beit El yeshiva in the old city of Jerusalem, a kabbalistic yeshiva headed by Tunisian Ravs.

Three years after his arrival in Jerusalem, he was offered the position of Sephardic Chief Rav of Israel, but he declined the offer. Shortly afterward, the leaders of the small southern town of Netivot, most of whose residents were of Moroccan origin, invited him to move there.

At first, the Baba Sali hesitated to accept their invitation because he wasn’t certain whether Netivot was within the consecrated borders of Eretz Yisroel He discussed the issue at length with Rav Yissochor Meir, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Hanegev. When the two concluded that Netivot did, indeed, have the sactity of the land of Israel the Baba Sali agreed to go there.

Netivot, in 1952, it was the end of the world geographically and could only be reached by a one lane highway that turned into a dirt road. A giant in Israel’s sephardic community, Jews from all over the world would travel to see him and seek his advice and blessings. For the rest of his life the Baba Sali remained in Netivot and when he died he was buried there in 1984.


The Baba Sali’s funeral was attended by some 100,000 people. His gravesite in Netivot has become a popular pilgrimage site in Israel. Two other people are buried nearby. His second wife, Miriam Abuhatzeira, is buried in an adjoining wing of the Baba Sali Tomb as well as David Bouskila, the builder and founder of the tomb complex. The Baba Sali’s third wife, Rabanit Simi Abuhatzeira, who married Baba Sali when she was 15, and still lives in Netivot.

The Baba Sali’s first wife died young without children. His second wife bore him two sons, Ravs Meir and Baruch. Rav Meir was a private man who died a short while before his father and was not well known to the general public, but Meir’s sons have become public figures like their grandfather.

Among them was Rav Elazar who lives in Beer Sheva where many Jews of all backgrounds and opinions go to ask his advice would go to receive his blessing before his tragic murder. The second is Rav David who is also known to many, lives in Nahariya, founded the “Abir” institutions.

Rav Baruch is the Baba Sali’s second son and has two sons of his own, Rav Yekutiel and Rav Refael in Ashdod.

Read more at Arutz Sheva.

{Arutz Sheva/ Newscenter}


  1. The best way than they can Honor this illustrious family of Tsadikim is by ALL OF THEM BECOME FRUM!

  2. You wrote a nice article but so much of it is wrong. The Baba Sali spoke with Rav Yissachar ZT”L but that was long after 1952. Rav Yissachar came to Netivot in 1961.
    Baba Baruch has at least 3 sons- Yehuda,Moshe, and Yitzchak.
    Harav Meir had 5 sons- Harabanim Elazar, David, Yekutiel,Rachamim,and I forget the name of the 5th.

  3. dear no. 6 Oviously the members of knesset.

    We have to stop honoring people with worthless tributes.

    They will have a minute of silence, plant a tree in memory of the tsadik nifter (or a street) and then..back to chilul shabbes and buisness as usual.

  4. So many mistakes in this article.
    1. Rabbi Yaakov’s oldest son (and father of Baba Sali) was Rabbi Massoud, not Rabbi Moshe.

    2. Chatzeirah is a mat and the story is that Rabbi Shmuel wasn’t allowed on the boat so he sat on his mat to study and it started flying paralel the boat.

    3. Baba Meir (Baba Sali’s son) has 5 sons: Rabbis Elazar, David, Yekutiel, Refael, and Rachamim.

    And just to clarify, its not THE Baba Sali but simply Baba Sali. Baba is an honorary title and Sali is short for Yisrael. I’ve heard and read so many times people saying that he was called Baba Sali because of the meaning “Father of Prayer” which is totally false.