MK Porush Threatened

Deputy Minister of Education is seventh hareidi figure to receive letter, in an envelope containing white powder.

Gil Ronen, | updated: 20:57

MK Meir Porush (file)
MK Meir Porush (file)
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Deputy Minister of Education, Meir Porush, received a threatening letter in an envelope containing unidentified white powder Wednesday evening. He is the seventh prominent hareidi-religious figure to receive the same letter, along with the powder, this week. 

The first batch of letters arrived Sunday at the offices of Deputy Prime Minister Eli Yishai (Shas), Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism) and MKs Moshe Gafni and Uri Makleb (UTJ). On Monday, two more letters were received at the homes of Rabbi Menachem Erstner in Bnei Brak and Rabbi Shalom Cohen. Rabbi Erstner heads the Vizhnitz Yeshiva in Bnei Brak, and Rabbi Cohen is a member of Shas's Council of Torah Sages.

The letter attacks the hareidi population in general, saying: "We, the enlightened residents of the State of Israel, demand that you, the people of darkness, stop living at our expense, studying all day without working, and refusing to serve in the army and do reserve duty.
It also contains an explicit threat: “If you continue to extort funds at our expense and that of our students and public culture, you will pay a heavy price for this. We will start fighting you physically and not just with demonstrations!...  We will make your lives miserable! We will attack you in your cities and neighborhoods!”

The letter follows controversy over a law that allows men learning Torah full-time to collect benefits for low-income families if they meet other criteria regarding income and family size, while university students are ineligible for the benefits regardless of their income. Hareidi leaders in Shas have responded to the controversy by calling on university students who qualify to receive benefits as well.

Many hareidi men do not serve in the military and study Torah at 'kollel' yeshivas instead of working for a living. Some receive small stipends from the state. Many non-hareidi Israelis resent this.

Some hareidis say that they would be much more open to army service if rules of Judaism – especially the separation of the sexes – were respected there more.

Hareidi kollel students are not the only sector in the Israeli population that receives controversial benefits from the government. The entire kibbutz movement received huge sums of aid when it was about to collapse in debt, and only recently, the government saved leftist Channel 10 from going under. The Left has also legislated numerous benefits for women, especially unmarried and divorced mothers. Some conservatives see this legislation as aimed at undermining family values.