Days After Harassing Messianic Jews, Orthodox Sect Clashes With Secular Israelis

Sect of Gur Hassidim is fighting to take over southern town of Arad from secular Israelis and Messianic Jews

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Israel Today reported last week on the harassment of Messianic Jewish believers in the southern city of Arad by local Orthodox Jews belonging to the fringe sect known as Gur Hassidim.

While that incident mercifully ended without any injuries or damage to property, the Gur are known for easily resorting to violence, as they did during a confrontation with the secular Israeli residents of Arad on Saturday night.

The long-running Gur campaign to take over Arad has included regular attacks on the town's mayor, Nisan Ben-Hemo. Over the weekend, one Arad man decided to hit back by hanging a large poster informing the Gur "grand rabbi" that the town is "not for sale."

Gur activists responded by hurling burning tires at the man and his wife, which resulted in mobs gathering on both sides.

The man told Israel's Ynet news portal: "We put them out, and they started coming in droves. We hung the sign because they're putting up signs against the mayor, so we paid them back in kind. We'll take down ours when they take down theirs."

The situation quickly descended into open violence after Gur activists started spitting on the secular residents and throwing stones.

There were no reports of serious injuries, but police did arrest four people for their roles in escalating the confrontation.

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