Opinion

The Guardians of Rubbish: This ultra-Orthodox Sect Must Be Condemned

B. Michael
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Neturei Karta members at a demonstration, holding anti-Israel signs, Kafr Qasem, October 29, 2019
Neturei Karta members at a demonstration, holding anti-Israel signs, Kafr Qasem, October 29, 2019Credit: Moti Milrod
B. Michael

First I should make clear that everything said below does not refer, God forbid, to the tiny historical community known as “Neturei Karta.” The Guardians of the City. The members of this community, who follow the path of Amram Blau, Aharon Katzenellenbogen and Leibele Weissfish of blessed memory, are declared anti-Zionists for halakhic reasons (based on religious law).

They make sure to refer to the Zionist state, which for them is an abomination, in the spirit of the Hebrew saying: “Neither your honey, nor your sting.” They work for a living, pay taxes, but aren’t willing to receive a thing from the government. They reject National Insurance, stipends for yeshivas, salaries for married yeshiva students, maternity allowances, and old-age pensions. One can argue with their opinions and their actions, but it’s impossible not to respect their determination and stubbornness. They don’t have an iota of hypocrisy.

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And as opposed to them there are the other Haredim (ultra-Orthodox). The ones who have joined the political game. The ones who take a huge bite out of the public coffers. Who profiteer from those who vote for them, in order to derive more and more money from the public. They nurture idleness, educate to arrogance, and encourage ignorance and rejection of progress for the glory of dependence and obedience. Those who see themselves as exalted, better than anyone else, and bearers of the hereditary right to do as they please. They deserve to be called the Guardians of Foolishness and Rubbish.

What happened to the “Neturei Karta” is exactly what was prophecized by their ancestors, those who refused to join the corrupt games of the authorities: They grew addicted. To games of power, to the political foolishness of propaganda, intrigues, and “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” deals. They have used their gods and their Torah as a tool for amassing more and more selfish authority and good food for Shabbat.

From Judaism they took only what is secondary, superfluous and foolish. After all, it’s hard to excite the masses with sophisticated talmudic study, theological deliberations or citations from Maimonides (like this one, for example: “Whoever thinks he will study Torah and not work and will be supported from charity, profanes God’s Name, shames the Torah, darkens the light of knowledge, causes harm to himself, and takes his life from this world.” Maimonides, Laws of Torah Study).

It’s much easier and more effective to go for the exciting nonsense: Abuse of women, gender separation, grotesque demands for modesty, stupid wars over “hurting people’s feelings,” the sanctity of “the religious character” in public, and a slew of nonsensical beliefs and foolish customs. The “Neturei Karta” have also harnessed racism, xenophobia and chauvinism to their wagon. Chauvinism and fundamentalism go very well together.

And that’s another prophecy that has been fulfilled: the Haredim have become Hardalim (ultra-Orthodox nationalists). Chauvinism, deceit of those who dwell among us, and accelerating the coming of the Messiah, which until recently were totally forbidden, have become sanctified mitzvot. Almost a substitute for the 613 basic commandments. The statement: “I travel on Shabbat, but hate Arabs” is no longer a satiric barb. It’s an acceptable sentiment.

Even on the level of excuses for violence, arrogant disdain for what is proper, and institutionalized defiance of the law, there is already a Haredi-Zionist identity. In the territories as in Bnei Brak, in Palestine as in Jerusalem, it is always only “a small minority of extremists” who are perpetrating the abominations. The Haredi national religious community have the “hilltop youth? The “Neturei Karta” are the “shtreimel youth.” And only the leadership is always innocent. They, after all, “harshly condemned the actions of the extremist minority.”

"Neturei Karta" is not a Jewish invention. Every religion that adheres to a country’s teats of authority gives rise to such “Neturei Karta.” That’s how it was in Christianity. That’s what there is in Islam. The Jews succeeded in avoiding this repugnant destiny for 2,000 years. It seems that now our time has come.

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