Neturei Karta

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Neturei Karta (Aramaic: נטורי קרתא, "Guardians of the City") is a Haredi Jewish group with hundreds of adherents, formally created in 1935, who oppose Zionism and call for a peaceful dismantling of the State of Israel, in the belief that Jews are forbidden to have their own state until the coming of the Messiah.[1]. They are mostly concentrated in Jerusalem, but also in and around Ramat Bet Shemesh (near Jerusalem), and Bnei Brak. Other groups associated with Neturei Karta can be found in London, New York City, and other parts of New York.



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:

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; but the Satmar Rebbe, Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum abhorred the Neturei Karta in public as being too extreme and didn't sanction their actions.

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." These synagogues follow the customs of the Gaon of Vilna, due to Neturei Karta's origin within the Lithuanian rather than Chasidic branch of Orthodox Judaism.


Neturei Karta stresses those portions in rabbinic literature which state that because of their sins, the Jewish people went into exile from the Land of Israel. Additionally, they maintain the view - basing it on the Babylonian Talmud [2] - 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.

Neturei Karta believes that the exile of the Jews can end only 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 a smaller of Neturei Karta,[3] 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 Israel. Other Jewish groups have criticized this alignment, describing it as condoning or even abetting Palestinian terrorism or using Palestinians as a tool for the destruction of Israel.[4][5][6]

Neturei Karta is not a strictly governed group. It is not a Hasidic but mostly a Litvish movement, though their type of dress is very similar to that of Hasidim (for example, the Jerusalem Litvaks wear a shtreimel on Shabbos). Adherents do not view themselves as being part of a specific group, rather they view themselves as followers of an ideology. 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 love and connection to the Holy Land.


For the most part, the members of Neturei Karta are descended from Hungarian 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, 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 Ungarin and the larger Meah Shearim 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 claimed that Jewish redemption could only be brought about by the Jewish messiah.

Among the claims they brought for this argument 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 legend states, the (3) gentile nations promised not to persecute the Jews too harshly.[2] By rebelling against this pact, they argued, the Jewish People were engaging in open rebellion against God.

Other Orthodox Jewish movements, including some who oppose Zionism, have denounced the activities of the smaller brance of Neturei Karta. According to The Guardian, "[e]ven among Charedi, or ultra-Orthodox circles, the Neturei Karta are regarded as a wild fringe". [7] Neturei Karta claims 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. [8]


The 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, Agudath Israel reevaluated its position upon the establishment of Israel and has been a participant in most governments since that time (though it still will not accept a ministerial portfolio as a result). Neturei Karta maintained their previous stance, feeling they had been betrayed by their Orthodox allies.

Their opposition to Israel and Zionism continued under the leadership of Rabbi Amram Blau. The community became more insular, while forming alliances with other sects that rejected the support given by Agudat Israel to Israel's secular government after independence. Among their allies were the large and affluent Hasidic group Satmar, under the leadership of Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum, formerly of Hungary and later of New York City, 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.

Some elements of their rejection make clear the depth of their opposition - most will not touch paper money or coins with pictures of Zionists on them - Einstein and Montefiore are acceptable, Herzl and Weizmann are not. They view these items as 'ritually polluted', and in some cases the men make their wives use these items when their usage is unavoidable. They will not approach the Western Wall of the Temple in Jerusalem, feeling it has been befouled by secular interests and those professing Zionism, which they see as an abomination.

While many in Neturei Karta chose to simply ignore the State of Israel, 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 smaller branch of Neturei Karta, and its self-proclaimed "Foreign Minister", who served in Yasser Arafat's cabinet as Minister for Jewish Affairs.

Split-up of Neturei Karta into two branches


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 subjected to criticism for the actions of the smaller camp. Hirsch has also claimed that Katzenellenbogen intends to get rid of Hirsch's group.[3]

The group 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 Shearim, 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. He has also sought refugee status at the UN for members and sympathizers of Neturei Karta.

In America, the Neturei Karta are led by Rabbi Moshe Ber Beck of Monsey, New York. They affiliate with the branch led by Rabbi Moshe Hirsch. Ber Beck has courted controversy by meeting with Nation of Islam leader Minister Louis Farrakhan, [9] who has been accused of inciting antisemitism and of describing Judaism as a "dirty religion." After meeting with the representatives from Neturei Karta, Farrakhan indicated he would be more cautious in his choice of words in the future.[10]

In 2002, during Israel's Operation Defensive Shield, the Israeli military discovered numerous documents [11] 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.[12] [13] [14]

Death of Yasser Arafat

After two men associated with the branch of Neturei Karta participated in a 2004 prayer vigil for Yasser Arafat outside the Percy Military Hospital in Paris, France, where he lay on his death bed, this branch of Neturei Karta was widely condemned by other 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

On September 7, 2006

In October 2005, radical Neturei Karta leader Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss issued a statement criticizing Jewish attacks on Iranian 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." [15]

In the United Kingdom, Rabbi Yosef Goldstein testified on behalf of Abu Hamza al-Masri of the Finsbury Park Mosque, who in recordings has called for the murder of Jews and infidels. Rabbi Goldstein testified that he and Abu Hamza had a "friendly and cordial relationship."[16]

In March 2006, several members of Neturei Karta's fringe visited Iran where they met with Iranian statesmen, 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". When asked by reporters, the group also mentioned that they were not bothered by Ahmadinejad's Holocaust denial. 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..." [17][18]

The radical faction of Neturei Karta claims 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. [19] A Neturei Karta delegation did visit Iran in June 2000; however the suggestion that it was key to the prisoners' release several years later cannot be verified, particularly in light of the fact that several delegation members, including Rabbi Weiss, declared on Iranian television that Israel had "tricked" the men into spying, giving credence to the government's accusation while the trial was still ongoing. [20] (Four of the thirteen defendants continually maintained their innocence, and several of the others' "confessions" were suspected to have been coerced. Four later recanted their confessions during trial.) [21]

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 Tehran, Iran that attracted a number of high-profile Holocaust-deniers.[22]

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

"The holocaust is something which is, I believe, (and I’ve heard many speakers here say) is something which is very hard to say that the Jewish people did not suffer. I mean somebody has to be, I think, either very very embittered or a person who doesn’t want to open his mind to study, to say that the Jewish people weren’t exterminated. The fact is that there were millions and millions of Jewish people living in Europe before World War II. Poland, the statistics say around 3 million, and Hungary there was over half a million, maybe close to a million and you go through Slovakia, Czechoslovakia, Romania and Ukraine, they were all full of Jewish people, full of Jewish communities and today they don’t exist. And almost nobody tries to refute that. It would be ridiculous to refute it because the fact is, the Jewish people were there and now they are not there.
Now maybe I can say that at the discussion of the holocaust, I may be the representative, the voice of the people who died in the holocaust because my grandparents died there. They were killed in Auschwitz. My parents were from Hungary. My father escaped and his parents remained. He wasn’t able to get them out of Hungary and they died in Auschwitz as were other relatives and all the communities that they knew. So to say that they didn’t die, to me you can not say that. I am the living remnant of the people who died in the holocaust and I am here, I believe sent by God, to humbly say, simply to speak to the people here and say, 'you should know that the Jewish people died, and do not try to say that it did not happen. They did die.' There are people throughout the Jewish communities, still alive in their seventies and eighties and every one of them will tell you their stories. It is something which you cannot refute, but that being said, it doesn’t mean that the holocaust is a tool to use to oppress other people."[23]

They praised Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has called for the destruction of the Zionist state, for recognizing the difference between Judaism and Zionism, and expressed solidarity with the Iranian position of anti-Zionism.[24] 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. [25] Subsequently the anti-Zionist Satmar Hasidic group called on Jews to “to keep away from them and condemn their actions”. [26]

On Thursday, 21 December, 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 [27]

In January 2007, 350 protesters stood outside the radical Neturei Karta synagogue in Monsey, New York, demanding that they leave Monsey and move to Iran.[28] On April 1st, 2007, there was a fire in this building. Although police initially treated the fire as suspicious,[29] local and federal investigators have found no evidence of arson.[30]

Condemnation by main branch of Neturei Karta

Condemnation poster

The main branch of Neturei Karta, led by Rabbi Zelig Reuven Katzenellenbogen, issued a strongly worded condemnation of the smaller 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 forefathersn 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,
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 extremist 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.”

See also

External sources

Links supporting Neturei Karta

Links against Neturei Karta

Neutral links


  • A Threat from Within: A Century of Jewish Opposition to Zionism. (Zed Books/Palgrave Macmillan, 2006) ISBN 1842776991
Part of this article consists of modified text from Wikipedia, and the article is therefore licensed under GFDL.


  1. [1]
  2. 2.0 2.1 Talmud, Tractate Ketubot, 111a
  3. 3.0 3.1 Odenheimer, Micha (Spring 2006). "We Will Not Obey. We Will Not Follow" (PDF). Guilt & Pleasure 2: 71–77. Retrieved on 2007-05-21.
  4. Sela, Neta (December 15, 2006). Satmar court slams Neturei Karta. Ynetnews. Retrieved on 2007-03-06.
  5. Wagner, Matthew (December 14, 2006). Haredim slam fringe over Iran parley. The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved on 2007-03-06.
  6. Berkman, Jacob (December 19, 2006). Orthodox furious at anti-Zionist sect. Jewish United Fund. Retrieved on 2007-03-06.
  7. In a state over Israel by Simon Rocker (The Guardian) November 25, 2002
  8. Connections Magazine "In 'Honor' of Yom Haatzmaut: A Few RBS Haredim Wore Sackcloth and Hung Palestinian Flags" Temura, 1 May 2006
  9. Third meeting held between Nation of Islam and Jewish rabbis by Saeed Shabazz (Final Call) January 11, 2000
  10. Exile and Redemption: The Torah Approach by a Friend of Neturei Karta (NKUSA) February, 2000
  11. Photocopies of documents and receipts (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, ITC CSS)
  12. Amir Rappaport. Arafat transferred funds to (Hirsch's) Neturei Karta: Captured PA documents reveal that $55,000 given to leader of the anti-Zionist sect. Critics of this claim state that Israel has forged documents before to further project legitimacy along with other tactics of deceit, and that even if the are real, that accepting funding from those it regards as the true claimants to Palestine until the Messiah's return is no different from the Israeli government's material support of Palestinians who support Israel and call for the expulsion of Palestinians from the 'Holy Land'.(Maariv International), 2 April 2004.
  13. Neturei Karta "Rabbi" Received $55,000 from Arafat (IsraelNN) August 16, 2004
  14. Neturei Karta: What is it?
  15. The Orthodox Jewish response to the criticism of the Iranian President (statement for Al Q'uds Day) (NKUSA) October 28 , 2005
  16. Rabbi and vicar back Abu Hamza (Life Style Extra) January 26, 2006
  17. Neturei Karta in Iran: Zionists use Holocaust by Roee Nahmias (YNetNews) March 12, 2006
  18. Neturei Karta sect pays visit to Iran by Michael Freund (Jerusalem Post) March 8, 2006
  19. Ingrained Prejudice (NKUSA)
  20. Rabbis visiting Iran say brethren duped by Israel by Ali Raiss-Tousi (Reuters) June 9, 2000
  21. Backgrounder: The Trial of 13 Iranian Jews (Anti-Defamation League) March, 2003
  22. Why are Jews at the 'Holocaust denial' conference? December 12, BBC 2006
  23. [2]
  24. Anti-Zionist Neturei Karta Sect Visits Iran, Praises Ahmadinejad by Amihai Zippor (Israel Hasbarah Committee News) March 9, 2006
  25. Rabbi Metzger: Boycott Neturei Karta participants of Iran conference (YNetNews) December 14, 2006
  26. Satmar court slams Neturei Karta (YNetNews) December 15, 2006
  27. Black Eye For Black Hats After Tehran Hate Fest ( December 22, 2006
  28. Santos, Ferdinand (January 15, 2007, corrected January 17, 2007). New York Rabbi Finds Friends in Iran and Enemies at Home. The New York Times. Retrieved on 2007-03-06.
  29. Lieberman, Steve; Amisha Padnani (2007-04-02). "Anti-Zionist group's building destroyed by fire". The Journal News. Retrieved 2007-04-02. 
  30. Calabrese, Erin; Hasani Gittens (April 3, 2007). FIERY RHETORIC: ANTI-ZION RABBI RIPS 'TERROR' BY RIVALS. Local. The New York Post. Archived from the original on 2013-08-02. Retrieved on 2007-04-05. “Still, preliminary findings in the investigation into the blaze at the Neturei Karta sect's synagogue Sunday night showed no trace of arson, officials said. With the burned-out structure falling down, only specially trained dogs could be sent in, and they did not detect any accelerants commonly used in arsons, according to Detective Lt. Louis Falco of the Rockland County Sheriff's Bureau of Investigation. Before the officials' preliminary determination, the ultra-Orthodox sect's leaders vehemently insisted that the spark was deliberate. ‘I am 99 percent [certain] that this was a terrorist attack,’ said Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss immediately after the fire. ‘This was a hate crime.’…Officials with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which investigates domestic terrorism, were at the scene during the day.
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