Calls to protect hassidic community from secular 'provocateurs'

There is severe inter-communal strife in Arad, where relations between the secular and haredi communities, in particular the Gur community, have been become increasingly rancorous.

December 13, 2016 15:46
2 minute read.
Haredi man

Haredi man [Illustrative]. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Religious Services Minister David Azoulai has written a letter demanding that Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan take action against “provocateurs” in Arad who have harassed members of the Gur hassidic community worshiping at a synagogue in the city.

Azoulai’s letter comes against a background of severe intercommunal strife in Arad, where relations between the secular and haredi communities, in particular the Gur community, have been become increasingly rancorous.

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One of the main points of contention is the use of a former school building as a synagogue by the Gur community.

The community initially began praying in the unused school in the city, but the municipality objected and demanded that they stop. Eventually an agreement was reached whereby Gur would leave the building in favor of another location, but the other location was never handed over.

Last year, a pig’s foot was hung at the entrance of the synagogue, and another was placed at the house of one of the Gur community’s leaders.

Last Friday night, several dozen secular Arad residents reportedly entered the synagogue during the Shabbat evening prayer service and started using their cell phones, taking pictures and making phone calls.

Such actions are prohibited by Jewish law on Shabbat and generated outrage amongst worshipers, the broader community and its leadership.

A similar incident was reported two weeks ago.

In a strongly worded letter to Erdan on Tuesday, Azoulai said the provocateurs were “ignorant trouble makers and disseminators of hate,” and called on Erdan to show “zero tolerance” toward them.

“With unprecedented brazenness in the Jewish state, this group of provocateurs entered [the synagogue] and disgraced the divine spirit and everything that is holy to the Jewish people, and severely offended the feelings of the majority of people who live in Israel,” wrote Azoulai.

The minister called on Erdan to intervene before similar incidents occur in other cities.

“I am hopeful that the law enforcement agencies which are under your auspices will do everything they can to restore quiet to this southern city, which has known better days, and will prevent unnecessary incidents which do not contribute to the dialogue for unity in the city,” concluded Azoulai.

On Monday night, Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman, who is a Gur hassid, convened an emergency meeting of haredi political representatives to discuss the issue, describing the events in Arad as “establishment antisemitism,” and said that Nissan Ben Hamo, the mayor of Arad, had decided to go to war with the haredi community in the city.

According to the haredi news website B’hadrei Haredim, Grand Rabbi of Gur Ya’acov Aryeh Alter has now called for a country-wide demonstration in protest of events in Arad.

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