Mass brawl in Ponovezh Yeshiva

Simmering tensions between rival factions explode at Bnei Brak's Ponovezh Yeshiva when a mass brawl breaks out.

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Tzvi Lev,

Ponovezh Yeshiva
Ponovezh Yeshiva
Flash 90

A long-standing quarrel in Bnei Brak's flagship Lithuanian-haredi Ponevezh Yeshiva exploded Saturday night, as a mass brawl erupted between rival factions in the dining room. Students threw chairs at each other, and sprayed each other with tear gas, causing tens of thousands of shekels worth of damage.

Police arrested eight for their role in the violence.

The fight was between the the supporters of Rabbi Shmuel Markovitz on the one hand, nicknamed the "haters," and Rabbi Eliezer Kahaneman's rival camp, called the "terrorists." The flagship Yeshiva of Lithuanian hareidi Judaism has been roiled by the power struggle between the two for over twenty years, and both sides observe an uneasy status quo, in which campus space in Bnei Brak is evenly divided between the two factions.

The current tensions started after one faction appropriated a new classroom for themselves, upsetting the delicate status quo. Students from the other faction subsequently defaced the classroom with derogatory graffiti.

The brawl broke out in the Yeshiva dining hall soon after, when a student from the "haters" faction shoved a supporter of the "terrorist" faction. The fight quickly spread to other parts of the campus, as students hurled furniture, deployed tear gas, and set off fire extinguishers.

Ponovezh is one of the top institutions in the haredi world, and the ongoing internal strife has been a black eye for the community. In 2015, a supporter of the "terrorist" camp brutally assaulted rival faction leader Rabbi Shmuel Markowitz, setting off a mass brawl between students that deteriorated into a full fledged riot which only ended after police arrested 30.