Several hundred haredi men associated with the extremist Jerusalem Faction took to the streets of the capital once again on Thursday evening, in protest against the arrest of a yeshiva student connected to the group.The demonstrators blocked the western entrance to the city by the Bridge of Strings for close to two hours, until Border Police officers moved in to disperse the protesters using water cannons and Skunk spray, among other methods.After leaving and being dispersed from the city entrance, several dozen protestors then proceeded to Bar Ilan street within the predominantly haredi neighborhoods of the city and blocked the main junction of that road for approximately half an hour, before being dispersed again. After leaving and being dispersed from the city entrance, several dozen protestors then proceeded to Bar Ilan street within the predominantly haredi neighborhoods of the city and blocked the main junction of that road for approximately half an hour, before being dispersed again.
The rally came after a yeshiva student connected to the Jerusalem Faction was taken into custody early on Wednesday morning. He, like hundreds of yeshiva students connected to the renegade haredi group, never reported to the IDF enlistment office to obtain his exemption from military service, acting on the orders of Jerusalem Faction rabbis. The student was arrested, transferred to the Military Police and placed in military jail.
“The protests today are just the beginning of a determined struggle for which the masses of the haredi community came out because of the arrest of the prisoner of the Torah world Meir Bordianski, who refused to report to the IDF enlistment offices as instructed by his rabbis,” said the Committee for Saving the Torah World, the operations branch responsible for protests for the Jerusalem Faction.“The struggle will continue with full strength until the law is changed to exempt all yeshiva students from enlistment without condition or fulfillment of [enlistment] targets.”
The protest on Thursday were the first held since the leader of the Jerusalem Faction, Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, died last month, and was seen as a test of the group’s ability to mobile its yeshiva students after the death of its rabbinic figurehead.Earlier this week, the Jerusalem Faction established a rabbinical committee to take up the reins of leadership, composed of 12 senior rabbis connected to the movement.Among them, and indeed one of the four most senior rabbis on the body, called the Council of Sages of the Torah World, is Rabbi Azriel Auerbach, a brother of Shmuel Auerbach. In an embarrassing development for the movement, a recording of Azriel Auerbach was published by the haredi press in which he expresses opposition to the Jerusalem Faction’s illegal and disruptive demonstrations.In the recording first published by the Haredi Line news service, Azriel Auerbach says that he has always been against the frequent demonstrations staged by the Jerusalem Faction and that he does not believe yeshiva students should fight with the police.“I, from the beginning, was against all these demonstrations,” said Azriel Auerbach genially.“I don’t think that it’s good for the yeshiva students, for sure I was not of the same opinion as Reb Shmuel for whom the fire burned inside of him,” he continued with a chuckle.“From the beginning of the journey I was not in favor, I told them that I do agree to do [demonstrations] in front of the prisons and study, there was something there right, but in the streets?” the rabbi questioned.
“The clashes begin, we don’t need yeshiva students fighting with the police,” he concluded in a disapproving tone of voice.Azriel Auerbach was known to be more moderate than his brother even before this recording came out, but this recording is not only a source of acute embarrassment for the Jerusalem Faction but also an indication that the movement is less unified than appeared to be the case when Shmuel Auerbach was still alive.