Watch: Mass brawl rips through Ponovezh Yeshiva

Tables and bookholders fly, as rival factions in flagship Lithuanian Yeshiva fight violent turf war over main study hall.

Tzvi Lev,

Ponovezh Yeshiva
Ponovezh Yeshiva
Flash 90

Students hurled tables and book holders on Wednesday at Bnei Brak's flagship Lithuanian-haredi Ponevezh Yeshiva as part of a long-running feud between two rival factions.

The brawl raged on throughout the morning and only ended when police detained the main instigators after being called to the scene. Three students were injured after being sprayed by tear gas

The quarrel was part of a longstanding dispute between the two factions over control of the yeshiva and the division of its territory. The supporters of Rabbi Shmuel Markovitz on the one hand, nicknamed the "haters," and Rabbi Eliezer Kahaneman's rival camp, called the "terrorists" have long been at loggerheads and tensions frequently lead to violence.

The flagship Yeshiva of Lithuanian haredi 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.

Ponovezh head Rabbi Berel Povarsky pleaded for calm after the violence and said that the students should concentrate on studying Torah. "The evil inclination wants to interrupt our learning of Torah during the month of Elul in the most important yeshiva in the world, our yeshiva," he said.

A similar brawl took place a year ago 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.


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