Belz splits with UTJ charging discrimination

Belz, a hassidic sect with 35,000 voters faithful to Rebbe Yissachar Rokeach, says it is underrepresented in the party list.

belzer rebbe 298 88 (photo credit: )
belzer rebbe 298 88
(photo credit: )
The Belz hassidic dynasty and its representative MK Israel Eichler split from the United Torah Judaism Party charging they were victims of discrimination. Eichler was replaced by Ya'acov Cohen of the Gur hassidic sect, the single largest in Israel. Ya'acov Litzman, chairman of the UTJ is also a Gur hassid. UTJ is composed of two separate political parties, Agudat Yisrael, an amalgamate of hassidic sects, and Degel Hatorah, a party created by haredi Lithuanian spiritual leader Rabbi Elazar Menahem Man Shach in the 1980's. Belz protested sharing the sixth spot with Degel Hatorah's Uri Maklev. According to the unity agreement, Degel receives 2 seats and shares a third while the larger Aguda receives three and shares a forth. Belz, considered the smallest of four hassidic groups represented in Aguda was to share a seat with Degel's Uri Maklev on condition the UTJ received six mandates. But Belz sources said that Belz is one of largest hassidic sects in Israel with 35,000 voters faithful to the Belzer rebbe Yissachar Dov Rokeach. Therefore, it was unfair that they should always be forced to rotate. Cutting a four-year stint in half prevents an MK from being truly effective, said a Belz source. "It takes a year to acclimate and by then people are already preparing for your leave," said the source. Eichler, who is a frequent guest on the Popolitika TV show, has his own radio program on the haredi Radio Kol Chai and edits the Machane Haredi weekly. He refused to comment on the split. Sources in Belz demanded an updated poll of Agudat Yisrael's supporters to determine the relative sizes of the hassidic sects. "The Sephardim left, then the Lithuanians, now us, all for the same reason. Nobody gets fair representation in Agudah." Shmuel Halpert, representative of the Vizhnitz hassidic sect in Agudat Yisrael, who is ranked fifth on the UTJ list and whose sect is considered the third largest after Gur and Meir Porush's Shlomei Emunei Yisrael, supported the rotation decision. "Belz is still the smallest hassidut," said Halpert, who admitted that there was a need for an updated poll. Halpert said that Shlomei Emunei's Porush, who represents a number of small and medium-sized hassidic sects such as Slonim, Sanz and Boyan, offered to rotate with Belz in a scenario in which UTJ received only five mandates. But Belz declined. Polls forecast between five and six mandates for UTJ. "But even if Belz does not have a representative, we will take care of their interests in the Knesset,'" said Halpert.