Ultra-Orthodox Leftists Gain Visibility — If Not Traction In Community

It’s not just for secular lefties anymore: the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War has given a public soapbox to ultra-Orthodox Jews who are critical of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank.

Eli Bitan, 26, has become the public face of this group, whose visibility is rapidly growing.

In the past few years, left-wing Haredi activism and awareness has moved from Facebook groups into the open. Bitan’s appearance at a rally in Tel Aviv marking the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War was seized upon both by the secular left and the religious right. Bitan became the center of a smear campaign on social media by right-wing activists, and he was fired from his job at an ultra-Orthodox media group.

“Our role is to make [young Haredi men and women] feel at home. Ending the occupation is everyone’s task, everyone who lives here,” he told those gathered at the Tel Aviv rally.

But Gilad Malach, an expert on the ultra-Orthodox community, told Haaretz that the left-wing Haredi activism is “a marginal phenomenon.”

“Right now the phenomenon is largely confined to a certain elite in the Haredi world, but given the right conditions, it can certainly take off,” he says.

Contact Ari Feldman at feldman@forward.com or on Twitter @aefeldman.

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Ultra-Orthodox Leftists Gain Visibility — If Not Traction In Community

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