Ultra-Orthodox activists launched a campaign this week to protest ultra-nationalist Baruch Marzel’s joining with MK Eli Yishai’s Yachad party, warning that the merger would advance the spread of “Kahanist ideology within the ultra-Orthodox community,” thus elevating tensions between Jews and Arabs in Israel.
Marzel, who was placed fourth on the Yachad list, has led marches of far-right activists through Arab towns and was affiliated with the now-banned Kach party, founded by the late extremist Rabbi Meir Kahane.
A flyer recently distributed in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods criticizes Marzel and claims that the late spiritual leader of Shas, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, highly disproved of ultra-nationalist ideology. The campaign was organized by a group calling themselves Haredim from the right-wing, which claims not to be affiliated with any specific party, according to the Walla news site.
Marzel, on his part, said the campaign was the work of “well-known” people, in an apparent reference to Shas activists.
“I understand that they are under serious pressure and if once we thought my joining with Eli Yishai would help us cross the electoral threshold, today it turns out our power has doubled and estimates now indicate we will get eight seats,” Marzel said, according to Walla.
No poll published to date has shown Yachad would gain eight seats, with most surveys estimating they would garner around four.
“They are panicked and pressured, they are afraid. On a side note, I’ll mention that I was lucky to receive much love from Rabbi Ovadia [Yosef’s], in spite of all those who chastise me today,” Marzel added.
Yachad was formed when Yishai split off from the ultra-Orthodox Shas party he used to head, after finding himself sidelined by returning party member Aryeh Deri, who had also led the party before being sent to jail for graft.
Yachad then entered a technical agreement to join with the ultra-nationalist Otzmah Yehudit faction, meant to help the two parties pass the electoral threshold of 3.25 percent.
A number of rabbis from the national-religious community have been hesitant to publicly endorse the party because of its hard-line political and religious views.
Other leading rabbis in the religious-Zionist community, however, published a letter of support for the party late last month.
In an ad taken out in religious Israeli newspaper Besheva, a letter supporting the party appeared with the signatures of nearly 20 leading rabbis, alongside a note drafted by rabbis Dov Lior and Nachum Nerya, two prominent hard-line religious leaders.
Lior, one the community’s most important halachic decision makers, has often come under fire in Israeli society for his controversial political views.
He was arrested in 2011 on suspicion of incitement toward racism, following his support of the book “Torat Hamelech,” which discusses hypothetical situations in which non-Jews may be killed.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this article.