Saturday, November 22, 2008

Chareidi Politics - Internal conflicts

The Ashkenazi haredi political establishment is undergoing a major shakeup. Normally a bastion of stability and unity, haredi politics has abruptly been engulfed in a period of uncertainty and fluctuation.

Internecine violence is the most obvious sign that the once cohesive haredi political leadership is in turmoil.

Last Shabbat, haredi men shoved and threw kugel at MK Ya'acov Litzman, the most powerful politician in Agudat Yisrael, when he showed up at a family celebration in a hall belonging to the Slonim hassidic sect.

Meanwhile, Israel "Srulik" Porush, son of MK Meir Porush, who heads the Shlomei Emunim faction in Agudat Yisrael, was knocked to the ground and beaten this week.

Perhaps in haredi enclaves, moderate violence - such as fisticuffs and food-throwing - is more common than in secular circles. After all, friends and enemies live in close physical proximity. There are plenty of opportunities to strike out at one's foe. Also, strong religious convictions and loyalties breed righteous indignation that can spark violence. Finally, in haredi circles there appears to be little fear that pushing, shoving and fistfights will deteriorate into shootings or stabbings.

Nevertheless, the recent violence is uncommon. And it reflects a major rift between two major groups making up Agudat Yisrael.

On one side is Shlomei Emunei Yisrael, headed by Porush, which is made up of a patchwork of small-to-medium-size hassidic sects usually named after the East European towns where they were founded. Some of the sects represented by Porush include Arloi, Slonim, Karlin-Stolin, Seret-Viznitz, Sadigora, Belz and Boston, one of the few hassidic groups named after an American city.

Pitted against Porush's Shlomei Emunei is the Gerer hassidic sect, the country's largest. Until the recent confrontation, Gur, under the aggressive leadership of Rabbi Ya'acov Aryeh Alter, effectively controlled Agudat Yisrael. Now Shlomei Emunei and Gur are waging a power struggle.

The groups clashed in the Jerusalem mayoral race. In a brazen move that undermined haredi unity, Alter refrained from supporting Porush, the only haredi candidate, in the election.

There are contradicting accounts on whether or not Alter ordered his hassidim to vote for Barkat. From an analysis of election booths located in areas heavily populated by Gerer hassidim, it appears that many did. There are also eyewitness accounts of Gerrer hassidim openly campaigning against Porush, shouting slogans such as: "Save Jerusalem from the Taliban."

"They broke all the rules in the book," said a Porush aide this week. "Things will never be the same again. This is World War III."

NUMEROUS POLITICAL scenarios are in the offing. One possibility is that Porush will attempt to create his own independent list. Agudat Yisrael is controlled by Gur, claim Shlomei Emunei sources. Other voices, other rebbes, are not being heard enough, they say.

Porush has already taken steps to set up a daily newspaper that would compete with the Gur-controlled Hamodia. During the Jerusalem mayoral elections, Hamodia ignored Porush's campaign. His name barely appeared in the paper.

Immediately after the elections, Porush's followers launched an anti-Hamodia campaign, calling on readers to cancel subscriptions and sign up to receive the new newspaper. Yanki Berger, a Porush supporter who is organizing the newspaper initiative, said this week that he has already signed up over 4,000 potential subscribers.[...]

No comments :

Post a Comment

please use either your real name or a pseudonym.