The Jerusalem Faction (Hebrew: הפלג הירושלמי HaPeleg HaYerushalmi, or simply Peleg Yerushalmi) is an Israeli-Haredi political organization based in Jerusalem. It was founded in 2012 by Shmuel Auerbach, as a reaction to the Bnei Brak-based Degel HaTorah's perceived moderate approach to the question of conscription of Haredim into the Israel Defence Forces by the Israeli government that came up following the expiration of the Tal Law.
The organization is known for its civil disobedience against Haredi conscription that takes the form of street demonstrations that often end in arrests. It has its own newspaper, Hapeles, and political party, Bnei Torah which has won city council seats in Jerusalem, Bnei Brak, and Modi'in Illit. It has been referred to as "hard-line", "extremist", and "radical".
In 2005, then Justice Minister Tzipi Livni stated that the Tal Law, which by then had yet to be fully implemented, did not provide an adequate solution to the issue of Haredi conscription, as only 1,115 of the 41,450 yeshiva students covered by the arrangement had taken the "decision year" provided by the law, and of these only 31 had later enlisted in the Israel Defense Forces. In 2007 the Tal Law was extended until August 2012. In January 2012, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said his ministry was preparing an alternative to the Tal Law. Dozens of IDF reserve soldiers had put up what they called "the suckers' camp" near the Tel Aviv Savidor Central Railway Station, to protest the possible extension of the Tal Law. Several politicians, public figures, disabled IDF veterans, and high school and university students visited the protest encampment.
In February 2012, the High Court of Justice (a role of the Supreme Court of Israel) ruled that the Tal Law in its current form was unconstitutional and could not be extended beyond August. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the government would formulate a new bill that would guarantee a more equal sharing of the burden by all parts of Israeli society. The issue was also part of a possible government collapse leading into the 2012-2013 election.
Death of Yosef Shalom ElyashivEdit
The attitude of the Haredi community towards the outside world had historically been guided by the opinions of its gedolim (lit. "great ones", rabbinical leaders) who through their Da'as Torah were able to create consensus. The death of Yosef Shalom Elyashiv in the critical year of 2012 created a power struggle among his successors Aharon Leib Shteinman and Shmuel Auerbach surrounding the draft controversy, with the former taking a more moderate approach while the latter took a harder stance. In the end Shteinman's leadership prevailed, which led to Auerbach's founding of the Jerusalem Faction as a protest movement.
Following the death of founder Shmuel Auerbach on 24 February 2018, a group of twelve rabbis calling themselves Council of Sages of the Torah World convened in Auerbach's former home to plan the future of the Jerusalem Faction. In particular, two disciples of Degel HaTorah political party founder Elazar Shach, dayan Tzvi Friedman of Bnei Brak and Baruch Shmuel Deutsch of Kol Torah yeshiva, appeared to have assumed joint decision making responsibilities for the group. Yisrael Yitzchak Kalmanovitz and Azriel Auerbach (brother of Shmuel) served as ideological leaders.
The Jerusalem Faction runs a political party, Bnei Torah, under the Hebrew call letters ״עץ״ (lit., Etz). The party claims to be the political heir of Elazar Shach, whose Degel HaTorah had in their view been compromised from its original principles. While the Faction also has a focus on threats to the Haredi education system, it mainly concerns itself with fomenting a strong opposition to the draft, which it deems a major threat to young Haredi men and women. The Faction created a Committee for Saving the Torah World to co-ordinate these activities, seeking to prevent any erosion of the status quo.
In 2017, they reportedly represented 6.5% of the Haredi population.
The Jerusalem Faction's official organ, Hapeles (The Leveler), was started by former staff of Yated Ne'eman who were terminated for espousing views that were not in keeping with the newspaper's moderate editorial policies. The Faction's views are expressed editorially in the English language in a Brooklyn, New York, periodical called Lehovin (To Understand).
|“||We'd rather die and not enlist, we'll happily go to jail.||”|
|— Jerusalem faction protesters at a demonstration in Bnei Brak on 12 March 2018.|
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