What scandal caused a fight to break out during evening prayers at top Haredi yeshiva?

Most of those arrested were loyal to a faction known as 'the terrorists.'

February 2, 2015 19:17
2 minute read.

Ultra-Orthodox man take part in a rally in Bnei Brak.. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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A long-running quarrel within the famed Ponevezh Yeshiva in Bnei Brak has burst once again into bouts of violence and brawling among the two feuding sides loyal to two different rabbis who both claim to head the institution.

On Sunday night, dozens of yeshiva students were involved in a fierce melee apparently over which faction had the rights to lead the evening prayers. Some 20 students were reportedly injured in the fighting, during which a prayer stand was thrown into a crowd of students and one of the yeshiva deans central to the conflict, Rabbi Shmuel Markowitz, was struck.

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A student thought to be responsible for striking Markowitz was arrested on Monday.

The latest skirmish follows a series of fights that have taken place in recent days and weeks which led last Thursday to a massive police operation in which several dozen yeshiva students were arrested for their part in the violence.

Most of those arrested were loyal to Markowitz and his faction, known as “the terrorists.”

Those loyal to the faction of yeshiva president Rabbi Eliezer Kahaneman, son of Ponevezh founder Rabbi Avraham Kahaneman, along with Rabbis Gershon Edelstein and Baruch Dov Poborski, are known as “the haters.”

Violence broke out again on Sunday night between the two factions over who would have the right to lead the evening prayers. The skirmish grew within the yeshiva halls, and Markowitz was hurt, allegedly by Rabbi Yossi Kahaneman, son of Eliezer Kahaneman.

Markowitz has now filed a complaint against the younger Kahaneman with the Bnei Brak police, although he has denied the charge and was released.

This led members of “the terrorists” faction to violently vandalize a dormitory belonging to “the haters.”

The dispute over the leadership of the yeshiva started back in 2001, with the death of Rabbi Elazar Menachem Shach, the undisputed dean of the Ponevezh Yeshiva and the spiritual head of the non-hassidic haredi community.

A power struggle for control over the yeshiva, its institutions and its valuable real estate ensued between one of the co-yeshiva deans, Markovitz, and yeshiva president Kahaneman, along with rabbis and co-deans Edelstein and Poborski.

Former leader of the non-hassidic haredi world the late Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv expressed his support for Markovitz, while most of the other leading rabbis in the haredi stronghold of Bnei Brak have publicly supported Kahaneman, who also has the backing of the veteran teaching staff of the yeshiva.

In response to the ongoing violence, former education minister and Yesh Atid No. 2 Shai Piron suggested on Twitter on Monday that the brawling yeshiva students should be drafted into the security services.

“I don’t think that those who know how to dish out the blows at the Ponevezh Yeshiva should be exempt from military service,” Piron tweeted on Monday.

“I would draft them straight into Yasam,” he added, in reference to the Israel Police riot control unit.

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