Thousands of Gur hasidim gathered Tuesday afternoon for a prayer assembly in central Bnei Brak to protest what they termed the 'desecration of the synagogue in Arad.' On Wednesday a similar demonstration is due to take place in Ashdod and on Thursday in Jerusalem.
The assembly took place due to the perceived struggle against the Gur community in Arad which reached its peak on Shabbat when Yesh Atid activists demonstrated outside the synagogue in the town, openly desecrated the Shabbat and disturbed the prayers and those in the synagogue.
Over the last few years the Gur community in the town has grown markedly, while last year Nissan Ben-Hemo, a member of Yesh Atid, was elected mayor of Arad. Ben-Hemo has repeatedly sparred with Gur hasidim who claim that he was elected on an anti-haredi platform and is implementing steps to prevent the growth of the haredi community and even to reduce its presence in the town.
The demonstration was attended by senior rabbis and hasidic leaders. Rabbi Mordechai Stern, the secretary of the Council of Torah sages stressed that "we are protesting for the sake of G-d's honor. We denounce the desecration of any type of synagogue. Our holy Torah will not be changed. We appeal to the heads of state and the municipality to allow every Jew to pray calmly and to prevent a spiritual decline."
Rabbi Elimelech Biderman said at the assembly that "We must make a noise around the world, when there is desecration of G-d's name in one place, we are all required to protest."
However not all haredi factions supported the protests. Other haredi leaders who endorsed the hasidic sect's struggle have called upon their followers not to take part in public demonstrations.
"There's a difference between fighting a mayor and holding public demonstrations. Our rabbis have instructed us not to participate in demonstrations," Degel HaTorah leaders told Yated Ne'eman.
Despite this the same newspaper stated that "every Jew who has a warm Jewish heart denounces and condemns the lowly act of these secular "demonstrators" who dared to desecrate the sanctity of a house of prayer in the midst of the holy Shabbat day."