On a visit to the US, the rebbe of the Viznitz Hassidic dynasty, Rabbi Yisroel
Hager has expressed concern for the ongoing divisions in the ultra- Orthodox
community in Israel, and called for internal unity ahead of the January
Hager’s concerns reflect wider unease in that community over
internal divisions and the continued failure of the mainstream Askhenazi haredi
party United Torah Judaism to increase the number of Knesset seats it receives
“We in the Land of Israel have reason to be jealous of
Agudat Yisrael in America, which works towards the goal of [the biblical verse
that] ‘everyone will form a single unit [to carry out God’s will],’ in unity of
hearts and rank,” Hager said on Wednesday night in Borough Park,
Agudat Yisrael is an international political association
representing the ultra-Orthodox.
Its Israel branch is comprised
predominantly of hassidic dynasties and is one of two parties in the UTJ Knesset
“If only we could copy the secret of Agudah’s success in
America, which comes from the power of unity, to the Land of Israel, and to
reinforce our strength for the coming elections,” said the rebbe, in the US for
The haredi community in Israel is riven by a leadership
dispute between two senior rabbis, Aharon Leib Shteinman and Shmuel Auerbach,
which has spilled over into political infighting.
There has also been
unrest between the hassidic dynasties, centering on political
One of the main arguments is over the division of Knesset
seats between the major hassidic dynasties.
Traditionally, a candidate
from the Gur Hassidim, being the largest hassidic sect in Israel, has headed
Agudat Yisrael’s electoral list, followed by a candidate from a federation of
various hassidic groups called Shlomei Emunim, plus a candidate from the Viznitz
Nominees from the Belz Hassidic sect have figured fourth on
Agudat Yisrael’s list, and in the event that UTJ does not get six Knesset seats,
one Agudah MK will swap places with the Belz candidate halfway through the
Currently there is a level of agitation from Belz to
receive the third spot instead of Viznitz, and this is causing tension within
the Agudat Yisrael party.
Rumors were even floated recently that Belz
might join with Shas for the elections, although MK Yisroel Eichler, the Belz
representative, strongly denied such a possibility.
Since Viznitz is the
second largest hassidic dynasty in Israel after Gur, Belz is unlikely to win
Accompanying the internal political bickering in the haredi
world is concern that the community’s growing numbers are not translating into
increased political representation and power.
Speaking about the ongoing
failure of UTJ to increase its number of mandates in the Knesset, Rabbi Yisroel
Gellis, former editor of the daily haredi newspaper Yated Neeman said this week
that ultra-Orthodox politicians have not sufficiently convinced their
constituents that they are achieving anything for the community.
political strength of the party [UTJ] isn’t growing, it implies that there are
people who aren’t going to vote... or who are even going to vote for secular
parties,” Gellis told haredi website Kikar Hashabbat.
UTJ currently holds
five seats in the Knesset, the same number of seats garnered by ultra- Orthodox
parties in elections for the Second Knesset in 1951.
parties in their different guises have not taken more than seven seats
collectively, despite the rapid rate of growth in the ultra- Orthodox