Israeli Woman Ejected From Election Polling Station at Request of Religious Sect Leader

Removal was 'a matter of showing respect for the rabbi,' a Gur Hasidim source says

Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman (left), Yaakov Aryeh Alter (seated center) and his followers at a United Torah Judaism conference, April 8, 2019.
Olivier Fitoussi

A female member of a committee overseeing the ballots on Election Day was expelled from a polling station in Bnei Brak at the request of an ultra-Orthodox spiritual leader so he may place his vote.

Rebbe Yaakov Aryeh Alter, the leader of the Hasidic movement, is also a patron of Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman.

The woman refused to leave the polling station, prompting senior members of the religious sect to ask Likud, which managed the station, that she be replaced by a man.

According to a source familiar with the Hasidic movement, the Likud member who replaced the woman suggested she take a lunch break, and by the time she returned to the polling station, Alter, referred to in Hebrew by his followers as the Admor, had voted and left the polling station.

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"We realized we are facing a problem when we saw that a woman was scheduled to be part of the polling committee on behalf of Likud," the source told Haaretz.

"The followers of the Admor understood they have to do everything in their power to get that woman out of there before he arrives to vote. At some point they even offered her money to convince her to go home," the source added.

Another source in the Gur Hasidic sect said Alter had no intentions of insulting the woman and that his request stemmed from the fact he is not accustomed to looking or being near women.

"The rabbi doesn't meet nor look at women. The removal of the woman from the ballot committee is a matter of showing respect for the rabbi, like respecting and fulfilling the requests of the prime minister and the president. It's very common," the source said.

Chairman of the Likud's Election Day headquarters of the ultra-Orthodox community, Yaakov Vidar, said in a statement: "We operated hundreds of Likud members to encourage people to vote for Likud, while supervising the purity of the voting process. Several changes were made during the day, including changes in manpower in some polling stations."

Litzman's office said that the deputy health minister is not familiar with the incident.