An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man checks an etrog at a market in Jerusalem's Mea Shearim neighbourhood
An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man checks an etrog at a market in Jerusalem's Mea Shearim neighbourhood

New clashes between ultra-Orthodox sects in a Jerusalem neighbourhood reveal mounting sectarian tensions that left a father of six hospitalised.

Avraham Hirschman, a father of six, was badly beaten on Tuesday in the ultra-Orthodox Mea She'arim neighbourhood of Jerusalem by a group of Hasidim and was taken to hospital with fractures and other serious injuries.

Residents of the area now say they leave in fear of more violence following a series of incident involving two warring ultra-Orthodox sects and claim that the police are not offering them any protection despite their multiple complaints.

"They said we'll murder you," the Haaretz quoted a witness as saying. "The police knew in advance they were planning the attack but didn't lift a finger."

The attack is part of a violent dispute between the members of the large Hasidic Gerrer dynasty and the Sikrikim group.

A demonstration was organised following the attack as residents wanted to express their support for Hirschman.

While most of the demonstrators condemned the Gerrer Hasids' attack, many feel frustrated after complaining that Ultra-Orthodox newspapers have shunned the affair while some ultra-Orthodox figures have been accused of siding with the perpetrators rather than the victim.

Among those who have clearly taken the attackers' side is Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, head of the voluntary emergency response organization Zaka, who said about Hirschman and his colleagues: "They must be beaten up. The Sikrikim understand only force. They can't employ violence all the time and then shed crocodile tears," the Haaretz quoted him as saying

The dispute appears to revolve around the control of the Batei Warsaw quarter in Mea She'arim, a district dating back from the Ottoman period where most residents were yeshiva students from Poland.

However, over the years, the Batei Warsaw residenst, most of who belong to the Sikrikim group, have complained that the Polish Gerrer dynasty, which always had people in the neighbourhood committee, has gained considerable control of the committee in recent years and is now planning to expand the quarter.

As a result the Batei Warsaw tenants, who do not recognise the state or its institution, have filed a court suit to stop the Gerrer Hasids' expansion, a move which is thought to be at the origin of the dispute and the new clashes.

This move is believed to have sparked the recent hostilities.

Hirschman, a major anti-Gerrer activist, had already been targeted six months ago after an angry crowd set his house on fire. His wife and baby daughter, who were in the house at the time, were rescued, but the affair shook the whole neighbourhood.