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 yeshiva dormitory. Students threw chairs at each other and dumped heavy objects down flights of stairs, causing thousands of shekels worth of damage.
The fracas is part of a long-running conflict among students of the yeshiva, pitting the supporters of Rabbi Shmuel Markovitz, nicknamed the "haters," against a faction led by Rabbi Eliezer Kahaneman, called the "terrorists".
Ponevezh, the flagship yeshiva of Lithuanian haredi Judaism, has been roiled by the power struggle between the two factions for over twenty years. In recent years, however, both sides have maintained an uneasy truce, in which campus space in and around the Bnei Brak yeshiva is evenly divided between the two factions.
Tensions recently flared up again, however, after one faction ransacked the bedroom of a respected student from the rival group and tossed his personal items out of a third-story window. Students from the other faction subsequently confronted them and a mass brawl broke out. A video of the incident published by the haredi Kikar Hashabbat website shows screaming and fisticuffs.
Police arrested one student involved in the brawl, and are weighing whether to open an investigation into the incident.
Ponovezh is one of the top institutions in the haredi world, and the ongoing internal strife has been a sore spot 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.
In September, the usually festive first day of studies was marred when a student from the "haters" faction shoved a supporter of the "terrorist" faction in the yeshiva dining room. The fight quickly spread to other parts of the campus, as students hurled furniture, deployed tear gas, and set off fire extinguishers.