A dispute broke out between Haredi rabbis, politicians and pundits on Thursday over whether or not to participate in the right-wing protest scheduled on Thursday evening outside of the Israeli Knesset in Jerusalem.
Yisrael Friedman, editor of the Yated Ne'eman newspaper, which is affiliated with the Lithuanian Degel Hatorah faction within the United Torah Judaism party (UTJ), wrote a harshly worded editorial against participation in the protests.
According to Friedman, participating in such a protest is an expression of a belief in "the power and the strength of my hands" (Deuteronomy, 8,17) – which contradicts the party's belief that its leading rabbis are the only ones authorized to address political matters. These rabbis make decisions based on decades of Torah study and thus represent the ultimate authority – as opposed to mass protests, which acts according to "outburst of emotion," and is not the party's way.
While the haredi parties are currently allied with the right-wing camp, this is only because the rabbis directed the party to do so based on the fact that it includes the majority of traditional and religious citizens, Friedman added. It is true that the right-wing camp uses rhetoric that is more oriented towards Judaism and tradition, but in core matters, haredim are neither right-wing nor left-wing, and the fact that Thursday night's protests are a right-wing event does not mean haredim must participate, he wrote.
"We are going with the Right at the orders of our rabbis, but do not belong and are not fighting a joint battle. We support the [government's] judicial reform and are against the dictatorial takeover of the lives of the people by liberal terrorism. But whoever is haredi must not go there.
"Whenever acting outside of the arena cordoned off for the world of Torah, it must be lit, like a flashlight, by the directions of the rabbis, shepherds of Israel… whoever goes to the right-wing protest is not part of our community. Not one of us. Period. His citizenship in the house of God is revoked," Friedman wrote.
Other haredi factions disagree with Friedman
The other faction that makes up UTJ is the Hassidic "Agudat Yisrael". Agudat Yisrael has its own affiliated newspaper, Mishpacha, or Jewish Family Weekly, edited by Aryeh Erlich.
Erlich criticized Yated Ne'eman for speaking in the name of all haredim.
"Yated Ne'eman will not revoke haredi citizenship, and Yisrael Friedman will not determine who is one of us and who is part of our community. Every person should decide whether or not to go to the protests or not," Erlich wrote, adding that "the warped culture of selectors sitting at the gates of haredi society and deciding who is legitimate and who is not" has passed from the world.
People in cars with megaphones in haredi clusters sent out messages both in favor and against joining the protest. A video depicted one such car in Jerusalem called on listeners to attend the protest against the "destroyers of religion," while a different video from Bnei Brak called on listeners that, at the directive of the rabbis, they should not participate in the "licentious" protests of that are "against the way of Torah."
A number of buses left from Bnei Brak to the protest on Thursday afternoon, according to protest organizers.