Large brawl breaks out in Bnei Brak yeshiva
Students hurl furniture, deploy tear gas as tensions erupt between long-time rival factions at Ponevezh
Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.
Over a dozen people were injured when a large brawl between two rival factions broke out at a Bnei Brak yeshiva Sunday night.
According to Hebrew reports, the brawl erupted at the Ponevezh Yeshiva, where a prominent rabbi, Shmuel Markovitz, was physically assaulted by a student of a rival faction, sparking the violent confrontation between the two groups.
Markovitz’s students, who refer to themselves as “the Mehablim,” a Hebrew word that connotes either terrorists or saboteurs, then stormed the yeshiva dormitories of their long-time rivals, “the Sonim,” or “the haters,” and a full-blown fight broke out.
The students vandalized dorm rooms and hurled furniture at one another, and a canister of tear gas was released in the compound.
Although students from both factions share the same facility, the two groups have been at loggerheads over their support for rival rabbis vying for the yeshiva’s leadership. Markovitz, who was assaulted at the start of the melee, is one candidate; Eliezer Kahaneman is the other.
The latter is the grandson of the founder of the yeshiva, while the former is married to the founder’s granddaughter. Conflict has raged between their supporters since the 1990s.
Police were called to the scene to break up the fight, and according to a statement, were investigating the incident.
Ambulance workers said dozens of people were injured and 13 were hospitalized for tear-gas inhalation.
The brawl is the most recent flareup between the two factions, and police say they have received numerous complaints of vandalism, assault and arson from the yeshiva in recent months.
In an effort to quell tensions, on Thursday police arrested 30 of the yeshiva’s students they believe were responsible for provoking the feud.