A Violent Schism Just Exploded in Israel's Most Powerful Hasidic Sect
Rival factions of the Ger Hasidic sect fought running battles in three Israeli cities over the weekend. This is why the fur is flying
Sam Sokol May 23, 2022
Clashes between rival factions of the Ger Hasidic sect spread across the country over the weekend, exposing a growing and increasingly violent rift in Israel’s largest and most powerful ultra-Orthodox dynasty.
Street fighting erupted Friday in three separate places – the southern city of Ashdod, the predominantly Haredi city of Bnei Brak and Jerusalem. Tensions spiked after followers of Rabbi Shaul Alter – the former dean of the movement’s flagship yeshiva in Jerusalem – reportedly hurled insults at Grand Rebbe Yaakov Alter, the movement’s leader and Shaul Alter’s cousin, as the grand rabbi was visiting his mother-in-law’s grave in north Tel Aviv the previous evening.
In Jerusalem, a mob of hundreds of young men attempted to storm Shaul Alter’s yeshiva, breaking windows as the rabbi and his students hid inside. Footage from inside the building showed at least one Ger Hasid with a bloody head wound.
The fighting, which continued through Saturday evening, comes after years of acrimony between the cousins, who both descend from previous grand rabbis and have competing power bases within the movement.
While Shaul Alter’s followers have not officially set themselves up as a new movement, they have largely been independent since 2019 when a small group of dissatisfied Ger Hasidim declared him their leader, joining him at his Simhat Torah services in defiance of their nominal rebbe.