Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky
Rabbi Chaim KanievskyYaakov Naumi/Flash 90

An internal power struggle in the haredi world came to a head in Jerusalem's French Hill neighborhood, as prominent haredi Torah Sage and leading Litvish halakhic authority Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky ordered subordinates to expel families affiliated with the extremist 'Jerusalem Faction' (Peleg Hayerushalmi), Kikar Hashabbat reported.

The move came as a result of tension in the northern-Jerusalem neighborhood. Members of the stringent Jerusalem Faction had been accusing the local haredi rabbis of being in the service of Reform Judaism, had lobbied city council members to vote against the interests of the other haredi Jews living there, and opened a rival neighborhood yeshiva.

The timing was especially sensitive, as French Hill has become more haredi over the past few years. Haredi leaders have been urging residents to keep a lower profile, in an attempt to refrain from the religious-secular strife that has plagued the Jerusalem neighborhood of Kiryat Hayovel, which also had an influx of haredi residents.

Earlier this week, rabbis approached Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky to ask his advice. His response was unambiguous; he told his followers to expel the trouble-making Jerusalem Faction members from the neighborhood. "Make them go to another neighborhood," he said.

The Jerusalem Faction, which is connected with Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, has been locked in a power struggle with the mainstream haredi community ever since the death of Torah Sage Rabbi Sholom Elyashiv in 2012.

The Jerusalem Faction considered Bnei Brak-based Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman to be an illegitimate leader, and revolted against his authority, splitting the hierarchical haredi world.

Matters came to a head in the Jerusalem Mayoral elections in 2013. Rabbi Shteinman backed challenger Moshe Leon, while the Jerusalem Faction supported incumbent Nir Barkat. The splitting of the haredi vote enabled Barkat to squeak by for the win, and roiled the haredi world, whose large, monolithic voting patterns have granted them tremendous political power.

Rabbi Shteinman was physically attacked in his Bnei Brak home soon after Barkat won by a Jerusalem Faction follower angry over the election outcome.

Another fault line in the internal split is haredim drafting to the IDF. Rabbi Shteinman is considered moderate on the issue, reportedly supporting the Nahal Haredi Battalion from behind the scenes, while the Jerusalem Faction has been waging violent assaults on haredi soldiers and telling followers not to show up at the draft office when summoned for the mandated interview after which they can request a deferment..

They have also been holding noisy anti-draft rallies, annoying other haredi Jews who contend that these demonstrations give the rest of haredi Jewry a bad name.