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Neturei Karta (Jewish Babylonian Aramaic: , "Guardians of the City") is Haredi Jewish group formally created in 1935, that opposes Zionism and calls for a dismantling of the State of Israelmarker, in the belief that Jews are forbidden to have their own state until the coming of the Messiah. They are mostly concentrated in Jerusalemmarker, but also in and around Ramat Beit Shemeshmarker Bet (or B) near Jerusalem, and Bnei Brakmarker. Most others associated with Neturei Karta can be found in Londonmarker, New York City, and other parts of New Yorkmarker, with smaller communities in various cities around North America.

According to Neturei Karta:

"The name Neturei Karta is a name usually given to those people who regularly pray in the Neturei Karta synagogues (Torah Ve'Yirah Jerusalem, Torah U'Tefillah London, Torah U'Tefillah NY, Beis Yehudi Upstate NY, etc.), study in or send their children to educational institutions run by Neturei Karta, or actively participate in activities, assemblies or demonstrations called by the Neturei Karta".


In Israel some members also pray at affiliated beis midrash, in Jerusalemmarker's Meah Shearimmarker, neighborhood and in Ramat Beit Shemesh Bet. Neturei Karta states no official statistics exist about numbers. The Jewish Virtual Library puts their numbers at 5,000 only in Jerusalem. The Anti-Defamation League estimates that fewer than 100 members of the community take part in anti-Israel activism.

Background

The name Neturei Karta literally means "Guardians of the City" and comes from the gemara of the Jerusalem Talmud, Hagigah, 76c. There it is related that Rabbi Judah haNasi sent two rabbis on a tour of inspection:
In one town they asked to see the "guardians of the city" and the city guard was paraded before them.
They said that these were not the guardians of the city but its destroyers, which prompted the citizens to ask who, then, could be considered the guardians.
The rabbis answered, "The scribes and the scholars," referring them to Tehillim (Psalms) Chapter 127.


It is this role that Neturei Karta see themselves as fulfilling by defending what they believe is "the position of the Torah and authentic unadulterated Judaism." Neturei Karta is sometimes confused with Satmar, due to both being anti-Zionist. They are separate groups and have had disagreements.

Neturei Karta not only denounces Israel's existence, but traditionally embraces its adversaries.

Beliefs

Neturei Karta stresses what is said in the mussaf Shemona Esrei of Yom Tov, that because of their sins the Jewish people went into exile from the Land of Israel ("umipnei chatoeinu golinu meiartzeinu"). Additionally, they maintain the view - basing it on the Babylonian Talmud - that any form of forceful recapture of the Land of Israel is a violation of divine will. They believe that the restoration of the Land of Israel to the Jews should only happen with the coming of the Messiah, not by self-determination.

Neturei Karta believes that the exile of the Jews can only end with the arrival of the Messiah, and that human attempts to establish Jewish sovereignty over the Land of Israel are sinful. In Neturei Karta's view, Zionism is a presumptuous affront against God.

Rabbi Moshe Hirsch, a leader of the smaller and more radical group within Neturei Karta, has endorsed Yasser Arafat, the Palestine Liberation Organization and later, the Palestinian Authority as the rightful rulers of the Land of Israel, which includes the modern-day State of Israelmarker. Other Jewish groups, including anti-Zionist ones, have criticized this alignment, describing it as condoning or even abetting Palestinian political violence or using Palestinians as a tool for the destruction of Israel.

The Neturei Karta synagogues follow the customs of the Gaon of Vilna, due to Neturei Karta's origin within the Lithuanian rather than Chasidic branch of ultra-Orthodox Judaism. Neturei Karta is not a Hasidic but a Litvish group, they are often mistaken for Hasidim because their style of dress (including a shtreimel on Shabbos) is very similar to that of Hasidim. This style of dress is not unique to Neturei Karta, but is also the style of other Jerusalem Litvaks, such as Rabbi Yosef Sholom Eliashiv and his followers. Furthermore, Shomer Emunim a Hasidic group but with a similar anti-Zionist ideology, is often bundled together with Neturei Karta. Typically, the Jerusalem Neturei Karta will keep the customs of the "Old Yishuv" of the city of Jerusalem even when living outside of Jerusalem or even when living abroad, as a demonstration of their love and connection to the Holy Land.

Anthem

Soon after the State of Israel was established, several young men were imprisoned for draft evasion, and in prison they composed what has become the anthem of Neturei Karta:

History

For the most part, the members of Neturei Karta are descended from Hungarianmarker Jews who settled in Jerusalem's Old City in the early nineteenth century, and from Lithuanian Jews who were students of the Gaon of Vilna (known as Perushim), who had settled earlier. In the late nineteenth century, their ancestors participated in the creation of new neighborhoods outside the city walls to alleviate overcrowding in the Old City, and most are now concentrated in the neighborhood of Batei Ungarinmarker and the larger Meah Shearimmarker neighborhood.

At the time, they were vocal opponents to the new political ideology of Zionism that was attempting to assert Jewish sovereignty in Ottoman-controlled Palestine. They resented the new arrivals, who were predominantly secular and anti-religious, and asserted that Jewish redemption could only be brought about by the Jewish messiah.

Among their arguments against Zionism was a Talmudic discussion about portions in the Bible regarding a pact made between God, the Jewish people, and the nations of the world, when the Jews were sent into exile. One provision of the pact was (1) that the Jews would not rebel against the non-Jewish world that gave them sanctuary; a second was (2) that they would not immigrate en masse to the Land of Israel. In return the (3) gentile nations promised not to persecute the Jews too harshly. By rebelling against this pact, they argued, the Jewish People were engaging in rebellion against God.

Other Orthodox Jewish movements, including some who oppose Zionism, have denounced the activities of the radical branch of Neturei Karta. According to The Guardian, "[e]ven among Charedi, or ultra-Orthodox circles, the Neturei Karta are regarded as a wild fringe". Neturei Karta asserts that the mass media deliberately downplays their viewpoint and makes them out to be few in number. Their protests in America are usually attended by, at most, a few dozen people. In Israel, several hundred is typical, depending on the nature of the protest and its location.

1947–current

Neturei Karta rabbi' during the rally in support for Palestine.
small faction of Orthodox Zionists were the most prominent representatives of Jewish religious communities when the United Nations voted to partition Palestine on November 29, 1947. However, representatives of another Orthodox party, Agudath Israel, actually asked the General Assembly to vote against partition. Nevertheless, since Israel was established, Agudath Israel has been a participant in most governments (though it still will not accept a ministerial portfolio as a result). Other Haredi groups, including the Edah HaChareidis and Neturei Karta, maintained their previous stance.

Their opposition to Israel and Zionism continued under the leadership of Rabbi Amram Blau. The community became more insular, while forming alliances with other groups that rejected the support given by Agudat Israel to Israel's secular government after independence. Among their allies were the Edah HaChareidis, including the large and affluent Hasidic group Satmar, under the leadership of Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum, formerly of Hungarymarker and later of New York Citymarker, as well as other Hasidic groups, some in Israel and others in the Diaspora.

With their help, Neturei Karta was able to withstand paying taxes to the state that they did not recognize and conversely, to avoid obtaining any benefits from that state by revitalizing the halukka distribution of funds that characterized earlier generations. As such they became a self-contained community within Israel with few formal ties to the surrounding political infrastructure.

They maintain the same customs held by many other Yerushalmi Haredim, including the usage of American dollars instead of Israeli shekels in many financial transactions, and not visiting the Western Wallmarker, feeling it has been befouled by Zionism and secularism, which they see as an abomination. These practices are common not only among Neturei Karta followers, but also inside the groups affiliated with the Edah HaChareidis.

While many in Neturei Karta chose to simply ignore the State of Israelmarker, this became more difficult. Some took steps to condemn Israel and bring about its eventual dismantling until the coming of the Messiah. Chief among these is Rabbi Moshe Hirsch, leader of the radical branch of Neturei Karta, who served in Yasser Arafat's cabinet as Minister for Jewish Affairs.

Split-up of Neturei Karta into two branches

Rabbi Moshe Ber Beck of Monsey, NY
Neturei Karta nowadays consists of two branches: a larger and more moderate faction led by Rabbi Zelig Reuven Katzenellenbogen, and a smaller and more radical faction led by Rabbi Moshe Hirsch in Jerusalem and by Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss and Rabbi Moshe Ber Beck in New York. The latter branch, though it is significantly smaller than the more moderate branch, is more widely known and often referenced to as "Neturei Karta", leading to adherents of the larger and more moderate branch to be subjected to criticism for the actions of the radical camp. Hirsch has also claimed that Katzenellenbogen intends to get rid of his own group.

The radical faction led by Hirsch maintains that a community of (Haredi) Orthodox Jews can and should be a viable minority in an Arab-controlled Palestinian state. Their main synagogue is the beis midrash 'Ohel Sarah' in the center of Meah Shearimmarker, barely a hundred meters away from the main synagogue and educational institution of the mainstream branch, called Toireh veYiroh.

Rabbi Hirsch claims that there is a striking accord between the views of Neturei Karta and those of Fatah, which was the dominant party in the Palestinian Authority until the 2006 Palestinian election: both favour a secular and non-sectarian government in Palestine.

In the US, the Neturei Karta are led by Rabbi Moshe Ber Beck of Monsey, New Yorkmarker. They affiliate with the radical branch led by Rabbi Moshe Hirsch. Beck writes in his book קומי צאי מתוך ההפכה (the title taken from Sabbath liturgy means "Arise! Leave from the midst of the turmoil") that it is forbidden to live in or even visit Israel. He writes that it's forbidden to benefit from the Zionist State, even if from mundane services such as street lighting. He also writes that any support of the State is forbidden, and such forbidden support includes sale taxes. Consequently, he concludes that it's forbidden to visit Israel, and one must allow himself to be killed rather than violate the prohibition. Beck emigrated from Israel in 1973, feeling it was wrong to live there.. Beck has courted controversy by meeting with Nation of Islam leader Minister Louis Farrakhan, who has been accused of inciting antisemitism and of describing Judaism as a "gutter religion" (although Farrakhan insists his words were misinterpreted ). In addition, after meeting with the representatives from Neturei Karta, Farrakhan indicated he would be more cautious in his choice of words in the future.

In 2002, during Israel's Operation Defensive Shield, the Israeli military announced that it had discovered numerous documents from Arafat's headquarters, including records of payments from the Palestinian Authority to Rabbi Hirsch totaling $55,000. Rabbi Hirsch's son, however, denied that any payment was accepted.

Death of Yasser Arafat

After two men associated with the radical branch of Neturei Karta participated in a 2004 prayer vigil for Yasser Arafat outside the Percy Military Hospital in Parismarker, Francemarker, where he lay on his death bed, the radical branch of Neturei Karta was widely condemned by other Orthodox Jewish organizations, including many other anti-Zionist Haredi organizations both in New York and Jerusalem. Rabbi Moshe Hirsch, and what the Hirsch's faction described as an "impressive contingent" of other members, attended Arafat's funeral in Ramallah.

Relations with Iran and Mahmoud Ahmedinejad



In October 2005, Neturei Karta leader Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss issued a statement criticizing Jewish attacks on Iranianmarker President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Weiss wrote that Ahmadinejad's statements were not "indicative of anti-Jewish sentiments", but rather, "a yearning for a better, more peaceful world", and "re-stating the beliefs and statements of Ayatollah Khomeini, who always emphasized and practiced the respect and protection of Jews and Judaism."

In the United Kingdom, Neturei Karta Rabbi Yosef Goldstein testified on behalf of Abu Hamza al-Masri of the Finsbury Park Mosquemarker, who was alleged to have called for the murder of Jews and infidels. Rabbi Goldstein testified that he and Abu Hamza's interactions as "very pleasant, friendly and cordial." Goldstein also stated that he found Mr Hamza "very open, very cordial" when they were both involved in the pastoral care of a mixed-marriage couple.

In March 2006, several members of Neturei Karta's radical branch visited Iranmarker where they met with Iranian leaders, including the Vice-President, and praised Ahmadinejad for calling for the State of Israel to be "wiped from the pages of history." The spokesmen commented that they shared Ahmadinejad's aspiration for "a disintegration of the Israeli government". In an interview with Iranian television reporters, Rabbi Weiss remarked, "The Zionists use the Holocaust issue to their benefit. We, Jews who perished in the Holocaust, do not use it to advance our interests. We stress that there are hundreds of thousands Jews around the world who identify with our opposition to the Zionist ideology and who feel that Zionism is not Jewish, but a political agenda... What we want is not a withdrawal to the ‘67 borders, but to everything included in it, so the country can go back to the Palestinians and we could live with them..."

The radical faction of Neturei Karta asserts that it has helped improve the situation of Jews still living in Iran, and was integral to the efforts to help free thirteen Iranian Jews who were arrested in 1999, convicted of spying for Israel in May 2000, and finally released in 2001 and 2003.

Tehran Holocaust Conference controversy

In December 2006, members of Neturei Karta, including Yisroel Dovid Weiss, attended the International Conference to Review the Global Vision of the Holocaust, a controversial conference being held in Tehranmarker, Iranmarker that attracted a number of high-profile Holocaust-deniers.

Weiss's speech, as presented in the audio recording of the conference, contained the following statement about the Holocaust:

They praised Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and expressed solidarity with the Iranian position of anti-Zionism. Rabbi Yonah Metzger, the chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Israel, immediately called for those who went to Tehran to be put into 'cherem', a form of excommunication. Subsequently a group of Rabbis claiming to represent part of the recently split anti-Zionist Satmar Hasidic group called on Jews to “to keep away from them and condemn their actions”.However the newspaper 'Der Blatt' which represents the largest part of the Satmar group refused to denounce the actions of Neturei Karta In addition Neturei Karta claim that the late Rabbi Avrohom Leitner, one of the major Poskim (Halcachic decisors) of Brooklyn's large Satmar community publicly supported their activities.

On Thursday, December 21, the Edah HaChareidis rabbinical council of Jerusalem also released a statement calling on the public to distance itself from those who went to Iran. The Edah's statement followed, in major lines, the Satmar statement released a few days earlier

In January 2007, a group of protesters stood outside the radical Neturei Karta synagogue in Monsey, New York, demanding that they leave Monsey and move to Iran, the Neturei Karta together and their sympathisers from Monsey's Orthodox community responded with a counter protest.".

On April 1, 2007, there was a fire in this building. Although police initially treated the fire as suspicious, local and federal investigators found no immediate evidence of arson.On June 1, 2007, a 15 year old boy was charged with setting the blaze accidentally while playing with matches.

Intrafighting

The larger branch of Neturei Karta, led by Rabbi Zelig Reuven Katzenellenbogen, issued a strongly worded condemnation of the radical branch, after several of its members had visited Iran to participate in the "International Conference to Review the Global Vision of the Holocaust." Below is a rough translation.

To clarify and to enlighten

It is now close to 60 years since the Zionists established their rule over Eretz Yisroel (the Land of Israel) by founding the impure Zionist state, which brazenly stole the name "Israel" and has waged a full and open war against God through its mere existence...

And this new path, which has never been the path of our forefathers and our rabbis, to replace the study of the Jewish viewpoint regarding the exile with matters of state and political affairs, and to mingle with the peoples, and to try to bring about the dismantlement of the Zionist state by force...

And because of this we have found it to be our duty to clarify:

That these actions go straight against the views of the leadership of Neturei Karta,

And it is the total opposite of the ways of Neturei Karta

We must clarify how much we have been hurt by the huge desecration of God's Name caused by these actions and it is impossible to remain silent on this issue.

Rabbi Daniel Biton, a Beit Shemesh-based Neturei Karta scholar, published a book in which he severely criticized the radical faction for their deep involvement in “the Internet and the international media,” secular media they use to advance their message, and more importantly, for their “partnership and connection to Arab, Muslim, and Palestinian politics which involves serious transgressions.” In response refutations to Rabbi Biton's book were subsequently published by a number of Neturei Karta scholars and sympathisers both in Israel and the diaspora.

Statement on the November 2008 Attack on the Nariman House

One of the targets of the 2008 Mumbai attacks was the Nariman Housemarker which was operated by the Jewish Chabad movement. Neturei Karta subsequently issued a leaflet criticizing the Chabad movement for its relations with "the filthy, deplorable traitors – the cursed Zionists that are your friends." The leaflet also criticized the invitation of Israeli state officials to the funerals of the victims, claiming that they "uttered words of heresy and blasphemy." The leaflet also stated that the Chabad movement has been imbued with "false national sentiment" and criticized the organization for allowing all Jews to stay in its centres, without differentiating "between good and evil, right and wrong, pure and impure, a Jew and a person who joins another religion, a believer and a heretic." The leaflet concludes that "the road you (Chabad) have taken is the road of death and it leads to doom, assimilation and the uprooting of the Torah."

See also



Footnotes

Further reading

Books
  • Yakov M. Rabkin A Threat from Within: A Century of Jewish Opposition to Zionism. (Zed Books/Palgrave Macmillan, 2006) ISBN 1842776991


External links



Links supporting Neturei Karta

Links opposing Neturei Karta


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