Religious parties get violent ahead of election

Wednesday, January 16, 2013 |  Israel Today Staff

Israeli elections always elicit hostile exchanges between right-wing and left-wing parties. But the various religious parties are also at each other's throats, literally.

Around 10 percent of Israel's population is made up of haredim, or ultra-Orthodox Jews. Until recently, the majority of the haredim had two viable political parties for which to vote - Shas and United Torah Judaism.

The vast majority of Sephardic (Eastern) haredim always voted for Shas, making the party a consistent powerhouse in parliaments past.

But this year, two prominent rabbis broke away from Shas and formed their own parties ahead of the January 22 election. Rabbi Haim Amsalem has formed the new "Am Shalem" (United People) party and Rabbi Amnon Yitzhak created the "Power to Influence" faction.

Rabbi Amsalem is a highly respected individual, so Shas has been careful about attacking him too openly. But Rabbi Yitzhak is the subject of greater controversy, and viewed by some as something of a lunatic. Because of that, the battles between Shas and "Power to Influence" have been far more severe.

On Monday evening, a reported 150 Shas activists attacked a lecture by Rabbi Yitzhak in the Jerusalem suburb of Beit Shemesh. As the rabbi was addressing the gathering, one of the activists hurled a gas grenade into the hall.

Many participants complained of a burning sensation in their eyes and skin, but no one required medical attention.

Shas officials later claimed that Rabbi Yitzhak's own people had released the gas in an effort to frame Shas.

We will cover the topic of Israel's religious factions going at one another much in the same way they did in Jesus' day in the upcoming issue of Israel Today Magazine

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