Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Charedi World

4 Sivan 5759 - May 19, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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A Terrible Scandal at the Polls -- Violence During the Campaign

by Betzalel Kahn and B. Katz

Throughout the entire election day, reports streamed into UTJ's election headquarters -- and to those of other religious parties -- of Leftists who manned the polls in various capacities who were disrupting the voting procedures and causing the voters to wait for long hours, apparently in order to discourage them from voting, and thus to cut the number of voters in the chareidi and religious polls.

"I hope that in the end, we will see that the Leftists who tried to interfere with the voting in the chareidi polls did a chessed with us, because they succeeded in arousing the chareidi street, and as a result the chareidim arrived en masse in order to vote at the polls," said MK Rabbi Avrohom Ravitz in reaction to the scandal caused by the Leftists at the chareidi polls.

The disruptions began in the morning in virtually all of the chareidi polls in Jerusalem, Bnei Brak, Kiryat Sefer, Ashdod, Beit Shemesh, Telz Stone, Rechasim, Haifa and other chareidi centers in the country. Members of the polls committees and their chairman, who were often from the Leftist parties of Yisrael Achat and Meretz, attempted to wear out the voters for many hours, by exhaustive and exhausting checks to ascertain if the identity cards in voters' possession really belonged to them.

The central election headquarters of UTJ received shocking reports about the worst kind of interference in the democratic process by the Leftist activists, such as testing the beards and payos of the men in order to "make sure" that they were not disguised. Women were asked to remove their sheitels for the same reason. Wherever such serious incidents occurred, the voters were delayed for long periods, among them elderly people, and in some cases they were forced to wait in the sweltering sun until their turn arrived.

In one of the polls in Bayit Vegan the chairman of one of the polls, a representative of Meretz, was dismissed from her job because scores of people stood outside the voting room awaiting their turn. A similar incident occurred in Netanya, where the UTJ representatives and representatives and of the Rightist parties complained about the secretary of one of the poll committees, who checked the identity of each voter for ten minutes. The regional Elections Committee decided to dismiss her.

From Haifa there were also many complaints of irregularities and long lines. The regional election committee was asked to come time and again to polls to ensure on orderly flow of the voting.

The Haifa UTJ sent out representatives to observe the voting in the area kibbutzim. They found many irregularities that did not make the media reports. One saw a woman who appeared to vote only to find that her name was already crossed off as having voted.

In another case, the head of the polling station was also the head of the local branch of a political party. From time to time he closed the polls in order to go out and bring in those of his supporters who had not yet voted. He personally gave them voting slips and showed them which enveloped to put them into.

Most of the complaints of delays came from chareidi neighborhoods in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak. In the afternoon, the regional Election Committees of Jerusalem and Bnei Brak issued instructions to all of the members of the polls committees stating: "In accordance with the law, the polls committees will identify the voters only by the number which appears on the first page of their identity cards and by their pictures. No polls committee is authorized to deny a voter his right to vote as a result of any other type of investigation, unless the potential voter does not appear on the voters' list."

However many of the members of the polls committees ignored the instructions of the regional and central elections committees.

In Jerusalem, the chairman of the Regional Elections Committee visited the problematic polls himself in order to see what was happening. He was accompanied by the members of the committee, and the UTJ representatives. Justice Koval, the chairman of the committee was shocked by the reports of the serious occurrences.

Indeed, the voting rate in the chareidi polls in the early hours of the evening was especially high, and it was proved that attempts to disrupt the voting only caused the chareidim to come out in force and to fulfill the directives of maranan verabonon, and the mitzvah of ve'osiso kechol osher yorucho.

Violence In the Campaign

As election day neared, waves of violence against UTJ activists erupted in chareidi centers throughout the country. Here is a sample of the some of the more prominent incidents.

Secular thugs in Tzfas attacked a 75 year old Auschwitz survivor, severely injuring her. The elderly woman, who had undergone the horrors of the Holocaust, and her sister are the sole survivors of their family, which originated in Transylvania. She and two other women were walking down Yerushalayim Street in Tzfas, when suddenly three thugs approached them and called out, "That old lady votes gimmel." Then they pulled off her hat and sheitel. The woman suffered a terrible trauma and is still in a state of anxiety.

A UTJ volunteer in Or Yehuda, Dani Mushaiyev, went out to "Gimmel Square" to hang UTJ signs, when six thugs suddenly attacked and beat him. Mushaiyev refused to go to the hospital. However on motzei Shabbos, after having felt ill the entire day, he had no choice but to be hospitalized.

A pogrom was carried out Friday night in a synagogue in Ashdod's Rova Chet. Thugs penetrated the Heichal Mordechai Tzvi synagogue on Hatzivoni Street, shattered windows and scribbled the worst kind of graffiti on the walls, including swastikas and a caricature of a chareidi Jew over which the a big red "X" was scrawled.

During the pre-dawn hours of Shabbos parshas Bamidbor, Meretz activists plastered campaign posters over the entrance of the Kodshei Antopol synagogue on Oliphant Street in Tel Aviv, thereby preventing the congregants from entering the synagogue. Congregants arriving on the scene expressed their shock at the brutal behavior of hoodlums of a movement that claims to be a champion of tolerance.

The synagogue rabbi, Rav Shimon Frankel, told our reporter that the incident was the main topic of discussion among Tel Aviv's chareidi community, and that all were appalled by the corrupt state of Meretz' activists. "Even in Tel Aviv, which presents itself as a tolerant city, provocation against the chareidi community is perpetrated," he said.

Also over Shabbos parshas Bamidbor, the final Shabbos before election day, thugs broke into the UTJ Election Headquarters on HaRav Kook Street in Bnei Brak, wreaking havoc and destroying expensive equipment.

On Shabbos morning, passersby noticed that the headquarters door was broken. Windows had been broken and contents of the closets destroyed. Headquarters activists were shocked by the willful destruction of anonymous vandals who sought to terrorize UTJ activists.

On motzei Shabbos, Secretary-General of Degel HaTorah, Rabbi Moshe Gafni, arrived on the scene. He told our reporter that the verbal violence which the heads of the Leftist movements spout has been translated into physical violence by their activists, and this underscores the attitude the chareidi community must expect after the elections.

"The activists of the Left see the great admiration with which UTJ activists are received throughout the country and how they succeed in a pleasant manner to persuade thousands to vote for UTJ. We are thorns in the eyes of these Leftist activists who are trying to stop us in every way possible, even through physical violence.

"The de-legitimization of the chareidi public which the heads and politicians of the Left are trying to bring about, brings us back to the dark periods in the history of the Jewish nation, and we must fight with all our might in order to stop this repulsive trend.

"UTJ activists will not be deterred by things like property and bodily damage. We will continue to work full force in order to insure the success of United Torah Jewry," concluded Rabbi Gafni.

Many other violent incidents and displays of hatred toward UTJ workers throughout the country were also recorded.

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