A group of residents of the northern Tel Aviv neighborhood of Tzahala shuttered their online group on the Whatsapp communications app that had tried to organize residents to oppose the entry into the neighborhood of ultra-Orthodox Israelis.
Tzahala residents are concerned that an influx of Haredi homebuyers could change the character of the secular upper-class bastion.
The group was organized after residents say they were angered at Chabad activists who stood on sidewalks in the neighborhood on the Rosh Hashana holiday earlier this week offering candy to young people who agreed to blow the shofar, or ritual ram’s horn that is traditionally sounded on the new year.
The group was closed after its discussions were leaked to Hadashot television, which aired them in a Wednesday news broadcast.
According to the report, one of the founders of the Whatsapp group told member that the forum was aimed at “notifying as many of the residents of the neighborhood regarding the Chabad process” as well as “to act against brokers and property owners … to not sell or rent to Chabad.”
Activists said the group was “misrepresented” in the broadcast, and vowed to continue to guard against “possible attempts to change the neighborhood’s secular character.”
“Following the warped way in which the group is being depicted in the media, which chooses to highlight the less pleasant and more strident statements [of group members] acting out of a sense of worry and in an emotional state, we have decided to close the group,” its administrator wrote on Thursday.
Residents of north Tel Aviv have in the past protested proselytizing by Chabad emissaries. Last week, a car belonging to a rabbi in Tel Aviv suburb Ramat Hasharon was tagged with grafitti reading “Haredim to Bnei Brak” referring to a largely ultra-Orthodox suburb.
One resident of Tzahala told Hadashot television news on Thursday that his neighborhood had been “marked” by Chabad emissaries seeking to change the area.
“There are now properties, at least two, that were rented out to Chabad emissaries, who came suddenly, into the heart of a completely secular neighborhood,” the resident said. “It’s a known process, entering quietly into completely secular neighborhoods and then suddenly demanding public space for a mikveh or synagogue. We have to raise awareness among residents that there is this effort underway by Chabad, and to use all legal means we can to stop it.”