Who's who

According to Zaka (Disaster Victims Identification) founder Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, the gay pride parade achieved something that had never been accomplished before. "They have gained a consensus among the different sectors of religious society. For the first time, religious Zionists, settlers, members of Agudat Israel, hassidim and even the most anti-Zionists, such as the Eda Haredit and even Satmar agreed on something." So who makes up the labyrinth of the haredi world? Agudat Israel is the umbrella group for most of the hassidic sects (excluding Chabad). This includes Belz, Ger, Vizhnitz, Karelin and many other, smaller communities. Although they did not support the creation of the State of Israel they vote in Knesset elections. One of the most influential families on the Aguda's political horizon is the Porush family: Menahem was a deputy minister and longtime Knesset member and his eldest son, Meir, has been a city council member and is now a Knesset member. Degel Hatorah, created by the late Rav Shach, represents the Lithuanians, who also vote in Knesset elections. Both the Aguda and Degel Hatorah prefer their MKs to hold lower-profile positions such as committee heads and deputy ministers. The two groups form the United Torah Judaism party in the Knesset Their municipal representative is none other that Mayor Uri Lupolianski and their highest halachic authority is Rabbi Elyashiv. The Eda Haredit includes the Toldot Aharon yeshiva and its members, the Satmar Hassidim, a virulently anti-Zionist group that is prominent in the US but scarce in Israel, and Natorei Karta. Natorei Karta has a representative at the Palestinian National Council and recently sent a delegation to meet with Iranian President Ahmadinejad to assure him that its members are also against the existence of the State of Israel. These three groups are not always on good terms with one another - to put it mildly - and represent the most extreme segment of Jerusalem's haredi world: Members of the community, who constitute about five percent of the haredi public, do not pay taxes and refuse to receive services from the state. They don't hold Israeli identity cards or passports, and don't vote in Knesset elections or serve in the IDF. The Eda Haredit's Rabbi Amram Blau organized the infamous protests in the Fifties and Sixties against violation of Shabbat, which often turned into riots against the police. In the Nineties, these protests took place on Rehov Bar-Ilan. The hierarchy among Sephardi haredim is very simple: Rabbi Ovadia Yosef is the supreme authority. Other important figures are Rabbi Shalom Cohen, head of Porat Yosef Yeshiva, Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar and Rabbi Reuben Abergil, who leads the movement of the newly religious in the Sephardi world.