Rabbi Azriel Auerbach, one of the leaders of the extremist Yerushalmi Faction (Jerusalem Faction) movement after the death of his brother Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, expressed support for the group's anti-IDF draft rallies, after he was secretly recorded expressing opposition to the demonstrations.
Rabbi Shmuel Auebach suddenly passed away from a heart attack in Feburary, leaving the movement leaderless. Rabbi Auerbach's Jerusalem Faction has opposed any cooperation with IDF draft officials, even for the purposes of attaining the draft deferrals given to full-time yeshiva students. The group has demanded the army instead grant full exemptions to yeshiva students.
Currently, full-time yeshiva students are offered annual draft deferments - an arrangement haredi lawmakers have sought to protect from recent Supreme Court rulings against the practice. The Yerushalmi Faction, however, has demanded the haredi community be given blanket exemptions from service, as most of Israel's Arab community currently receives, and as Orthodox Jewish women receive.
In recent years, the Yerushalmi Faction has organized dozens of protests across the country, with the largest held near haredi population centers including Jerusalem, Bnei Brak, and Shilat Junction, near the haredi city of Modi’in Illit.
Rabbi Shmuel Aurbach's sudden death left the Jerusalem Faction without a clear leader. Rabbi Auerbach's brother, Rabbi Azriel Auerbach, is reportedly interested in heading the faction but has come under criticism for his reported moderate stance on the issue of the haredi draft, and his refusal to condone attacks on haredi soldiers.
On Thursday, Rabbi Azriel came out in support of the anti-draft demonstrations after he was heard opposing the rallies in a recording which surfaced on Tuesday. Despite being heard saying that "these rallies are not good for yeshiva students and I oppose them," Rabbi Auerbach claimed that his words were distorted.
"I heard that they falsely distorted my words and published in my own name what I said in a private conversation, and they distorted it to present what I said as if I oppose the rallies," said Rabbi Azriel in a letter.