There is, perhaps, no other
topic about which Jews disagree, with the fervor that they disagree
and have disagreed, as on the subject of Zionism. Although, perhaps
you may not know this, but despite stereotypes to the contrary,
we have been known as a people to disagree at times among ourselves.
Today, I hope to present some of the opinions found, at present,
among Jews and to explain why, it is so clear to us that some of
them are authentic and traditional and others have strayed far from
the correct path.
Further, we will explore a segment of Neturei Karta's public activities
that are often misunderstood and misrepresented when reported in
the mainstream press.
At the conclusion I will welcome questions from the floor.
Before so doing, however, I'd like to offer a working definition
of Orthodox Judaism. I do so because this definition will frame
all that follows. My remarks are based on the beliefs, practices
and laws of the Torah. Although, in truth, much of what I say, especially
when we will turn our attention, a bit later to the current situation
in the Holy Land, may be understood in secular or humanistic terms,
we believe that Jews must step beyond the limitations of this worldly
philosophies, however morally commendable they may be.
What is Orthodox or, as we would insist, normative Judaism? It
is the belief that the Creator revealed to the Jewish people, at
Mount Sinai, the Torah. This Torah is divided into two parts: the
Written Law, known in common parlance as the Old Testament Bible
and the Oral Law, which encompasses much of the Rabbinic literature,
such as the Mishnah and Talmud. This latter corpus was largely transmitted
through the generations by word of mouth, until it was ultimately
codified in the just-mentioned works.
Judaism always taught that it was imperative that Jews believe
in and practice their faith, the Torah, with all its many detailed
laws, and one is forbidden to stray from these laws even one iota,
However, Judaism knows of no commandment to convert the non-Jew
and, in fact, all converts to Judaism throughout the years have
been completely voluntary. Of the non-Jew, the Torah asks that all
humanity believe in Him and observe His basic moral law which is
detailed in the Torah. That person is then referred to as a righteous
individual, who will inherit the world to come.
And, in accordance with God's law, the Jewish people lived throughout
the generations, humbly and purely, immersed in study and practice
of the Creator's Will, and His many Torah commandments.
In the aftermath of the European Enlightenment, the basics of Jewish
existence came under attack. For the first time in our people's
history there were large numbers of Jews who left the Torah faith.
In addition, assorted movements sprang up that attempted to maintain
Jewish identity while abandoning the God-centeredness of Jewish
life and, along with it, obedience to Torah, - such as the Reform
Jewish movement and later the Conservative Jewish movement.
Zionism, historically speaking, is just one of these many late
nineteenth and early twentieth century attempts to create a secular
Jewish identity. However, unlike others such as Autonimism, Bundism,
Yiddishism, all of which were eventually reduced to cult-like status,
Zionism has experienced much success. Perhaps this is due to its
unique weaving of what appear to be traditional themes into the
fabric of its novel ideology.
I - Traditional Jewish Beliefs
Concerning Exile and Redemption
Abraham, the mutual forefather of the Jewish people and their Arabic
cousins, is described by the children of Cheth in the Bible as “a
prince of the Lord in our midst”. (Genesis 23:6). Since man
does not live in isolation, one of the goals of the true religious
personality is to achieve a degree of devotion capable of evoking
among others their desire to emulate his piety.
From Abraham's days this was a major priority of the Jewish people.
The revelation at Mt. Sinai placed an enormous burden upon our people.
We were summoned to be “a kingdom of priests and a Holy nation”.
Down through the ages Jews lived a humble, holy existence, seeking
peace with all men and attempting to function as loyal and cooperative
citizens in the nations amongst whom they dwelled, as God so required
What is the traditional Torah belief concerning the Holy land?
The Holy Land was a conditional Divine gift. It was a place set
aside for God's worship. But it was given to the Jewish people conditionally.
The Bible foretold that if the "children of Israel" should
fail in their spiritual task, they would be banished from the land
and sent into exile. This exilic punishment will last until the
Lord in His mercy, would see fit to end history as we know it, by
ushering in the Messianic era -- a time of universal brotherhood
and peace. This utopian future will feature the recognition and
worship of the One God by all mankind, in peace and harmony, centered
in the Holy Land and the city of Jerusalem.
In the Additional Service recited on every major Jewish holiday
we find the following prayer, "And because of our sins we were
exiled from our land and removed from our soil and we cannot now
go up and appear and prostrate ourselves before You."
These prayers represented nothing new in the way of doctrine to
those who instituted and recited them. From the time of the Temple's
destruction and throughout Jewish history our people always regarded
their exile as a Divine punishment. Indeed, no Jews ever dared suggest
in the thousands of years of our exile that the Romans had destroyed
the Temple due to a lack of Jewish military preparedness or resources.
Rather, the Temple was lost physically because of the Jewish people's
failure to live up to their spiritual obligations to God.
Indeed, despite thousands of years in exile, frequent exclusion
and persecution, no Jew ever suggested that the Holy Land could
or should be retaken by force of arms. Exile was, indeed, a physical
state. Yet, it was completely caused and perpetuated by spiritual
forces. Thus the only means to end exile and to usher in the promised
era of peace and worldwide brotherhood, were and are spiritual.
They consist of the essential practices of our faith: repentance,
prayer, Torah study and good works. And the eventual goal, the end
of exile does not mean a "state of Israel", a political
entity, oppression and subjugation of another people. Rather this
is the antithesis of the end of exile as we hope for, that is, a
spirituality of brotherhood, harmony and of worldly servitude to
the One God.
In the words of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (German Jewish leader
1808 - 1888), "During the reign of Hadrian when the uprising
led by Bar Kochba proved a disastrous error, it became essential
that the Jewish people be reminded for all times of an important
essential fact, namely that [the people of] Israel must never again
attempt to restore its national independence by its own power; it
was to entrust its future as a nation solely to Divine Providence:"
(Hirsch Siddur, 1965: p.703)
Again Rabbi Hirsch writes, "We mourn over that which brought
about that destruction [of the Temple] we take to heart the harshness
we have encountered in our years of wandering as the chastisement
of a father, imposed on us for our improvement, and we mourn the
lack of observance of Torah which that ruin has brought about. .
. This destruction obliges us to allow our longing for the far away
land to express itself only in mourning, in wishing and hoping;
and only through the honest fulfillment of all Jewish duties to
await the realization of this hope. But it forbids us to strive
for the reunion or possession of the land by any but spiritual means."
(Horeb, 1981: p.461)
Zionism rejects all the above. It insists that exile is purely
a physical state, caused by military and physical weakness. The
movement called upon the Jewish people to end exile by force of
arms. It waged war, first against the British, then against the
The attempt to explain the exile in this worldly terms and deal
with it accordingly is not simply an error of doctrine or a distortion
of Jewish history. It strikes at the core of Jewish belief. In fact,
the Maharal of Prague (Czechoslovakian Rabbi and pivotal medieval
Jewish leader, 1525-1609) writes that a Jew should rather give up
his life than attempt to end exile by conquering the Holy Land.
(Netzach Yisroel, 24)
Why? Why was this seen as so basic to our belief system?
In simple terms - if one views the exile as the result of military
cause and effect, then the very heart and soul is ripped out of
Jewish destiny and Divine guidance. By asserting our right to alter
the Divine plan of exile as punishment, repentance, expiation and
miraculous return, we assert that the essence of Jewish destiny
is fundamentally capable of being altered by other than spiritual
forces. God is then exiled from the drama and final resolution of
mankind's hopes. And in yet simpler terms, to refute the fact, that
all reward and punishment to every individual is from God and to
refute God’s constant supervision, to ignore this and contend
that our punishments, are due to physical weakness, is blasphemous
Of course, exile is far more than mere punishment. The Jewish people
were sent amongst the nations in order to proclaim by word and deed
the truths of God's existence and His revelatory injunctions for
In the words of Rabbeinu Bachya (12th century Saragossian Biblical
commentator): "The Jewish people should spread among the nations
in order that those nations should learn from them belief in the
existence of God and the flow of Divine Providence regarding the
particulars of men."
II - Why did Zionism Succeed?
Tragically, two events coalesced to cloud over the above once universally
recognized truths among the Jewish people. First, the exile dragged
on for hundreds and eventually thousands of years. Second, in the
aftermath of the Enlightenment, many Jews abandoned Torah faith.
Thus, those Jews who no longer saw exile in Divine terms sought
to explain it as nothing more than the result of this worldly powerlessness.
In their frustration at the length of the exile, they demonized
all nations. In their view all Gentiles would forever hate the Jewish
people. Therefore, they reasoned, we must immediately end exile
by political and, if need be, military means. Thus was born the
pseudo-religion of Zionism.
III - What was the Torah Leaders Reaction
to this Movement?
The spread of Zionism to Eastern Europe resulted in fierce condemnations
by the then Rabbinic leadership. Their opposition was based on two
factors. First, the movement rejected the traditional approach to
Exile. Second, since 95% of its leaders and supporters were irreligious
it generally formed a path over which Jews could leave their faith.
And in fact, they strived to make the religious, God-fearing Jews
and especially the youth, into non-religious, secular Jews. Unfortunately,
they where wildly successful. Basically, they wanted to transform
Judaism from a spiritual, Godly entity, into a secular, political
entity - with its goal, a land, materialism etc., acquired through
IV - Moral Dilemma
There was a second issue, no less important, involved here and
that was a moral dilemma, involving the oppression and subjugation
of a people, the stealing of their land and of their sovereignty.
All of this is most strictly forbidden by God and His Torah.
The Zionist platform necessitated ignoring the Palestinian inhabitants
of the land. This was the other great evil of Zionism. It tried
to tell the world that Palestine was uninhabited and all those living
there were little better than barbarians. As their famous slogan
went "a land without a people for a people without a land".
Although isolated voices within the Zionist movement were raised
that protested this moral blindness, the mainstream movement was
determined to proceed regardless of Palestinian sentiments. In retrospect
it is worth noting the efforts of those associated with the movements
of Brit Shalom and Ichud (Zionist organizations) who insisted that
any attempt at Jewish return to Zion could only be done with the
cooperation of the Palestinians.
When this strategy of ignoring the Arab community became impossible,
the Zionist movement and later the Israeli state, sought to depict
them as unreasonable enemies, for whom military conquest was the
only just fate.
Accordingly, both exilic missions (repentance and serving as a
"light unto the nations") were savaged by the ideology
and deeds of Zionism.
V - Israel, the Grim Reality
In 1948 the state of Israel became a reality. The Jewish people
were now to have a safe haven. Jews need no longer fear the exile.
They had come home. Eventually all Jews would find their way to
the "new Jewish homeland."
It is worth noting two historical episodes in the early stages
of Zionism. In the 1920's the chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, Rabbi Yosef
Chaim Sonnenfeld, personally went to king Abdullah of TransJordan
to declare the Jewish communities’ loyalty, and in order to
elucidate the true Jewish stance, which was in total opposition
to the Zionist movement. The second episode was in 1947. The then
chief Rabbi, who was Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Dushinsky sent a letter to
the United Nations in Lake Placid, stating that he has 60,000 Jews
under his authority and that they request not to be included in
the, soon to be formed "state of Israel". Unfortunately,
they where totally ignored.
These chief Rabbis in Jerusalem should not be confused with the
“chief Rabbis” and “Rabbinate” of the "state
of Israel". For these above mentioned chief Rabbis, where truly
the leaders of Jewry, in Jerusalem, Palestine and worldwide. While
the Rabbinate of the “state of Israel” and their Rabbi's
are a farce, and have nothing to do with the true Jewish religion,
and certainly cannot represent anything Jewish or the Jewish people.
The misgivings and warnings of so many Orthodox leaders were forgotten.
A euphoria seized much of world wide Jewry.
Today 54 years later the dream has become an obvious nightmare.
There is no safe haven. The “state of Israel” is, the
most dangerous place in the world for a Jew today. Wars follow upon
wars. The toll of Jewish and Palestinian dead mounts steadily. Efforts
toward peace have failed. Further attempts to "wage war on
terrorism" will doubtless exacerbate Palestinian resentment.
The Zionist leaders are at a loss as to how to proceed.
VI - Our Current Goals
The goals of Neturei Karta International, are varied.
First, we seek to keep alive the traditional Jewish approach to
exile and redemption. The notion that the great, glorious and spiritual
miraculous prophecies of Scripture have been, are and will be fulfilled
by those who reject the basics of Torah is bizarre and repugnant.
The notion that our people are no longer in exile because the likes
of Chaim Weitzman or David benGurion, have so decided, is false
Jewry always yearned through centuries of precarious existence
for the true redemption of the Messiah. This Messiah has been the
source of our hopes and prayers since the Temple's destruction.
The true redemption of our people and of all mankind is in the
hands of the Creator. It is imperative that we realize that we are
still in exile. Failure to do so will mean that the mitzvah of being
metsapim l'yeshuah -- yearning for redemption, will be lost. We
will no longer seek to alleviate the burden of sin that has brought
us exile. And we may fall prey, as do Zionists and their lackeys,
to an inappropriate and aggressive stance towards the Gentile host
countries. On the contrary, it is imperative that the Jewish people,
be thankful to the people of the countries that have hosted them
and shown them hospitality, throughout the generations. We, the
true followers of Judaism worldwide, are truly grateful and wish
to express our gratitude to all those nations, including the Arab
nations and including the Palestinian people. Further, we are commanded
to be peaceful and loyal citizens in every country wherein we reside.
And again the true Torah abiding Jews worldwide, obey fully this
Second, it is just as repugnant, painful and embarrassing to us,
the oppression of the Palestinian people, we wish to undo the damage
done to the good name of the Jewish people by those who wage war
against the Palestinians and open the wounds of enmity between Jewish
and non Jewish peoples. We meet with Palestinians and Muslims leaders
and layman around the world. We join in the pain and suffering of
the Palestinians and other men of good will in their battle against
oppression and in their struggle for justice.
If Jews wanted to settle in Palestine, then this had to be conducted
with the agreement of the land's indigenous people. The notion of
taking it from them or of depriving them of their sovereignty and
right to representative government is totally wrong.
The Jewish people were not created to oppress another people. They
were intended to be moral paragons. The desire for the land at any
cost to anyone is a contradiction with our moral national mission.
Third, we seek to promote goodwill between Jewry and all mankind.
The philosophy of Zionism encourages Jews to lord over all non-Jews.
This results in endless Jewish confrontations with all people. This
is improper at any time and certainly at present. Ironically, the
Zionist state was supposedly created to protect Jews from anti-Semitism,
yet they are the greatest and main creator of anti-Semitism worldwide.
We welcome all Jews and all men of goodwill to our efforts.
We pray and hope that those Jewish people who have strayed from
the correct path return to the true folds of their faith. We further
pray for the peaceful and speedy dismantling of the Zionist state,
without any further bloodshed and pain to Muslim or Jew. We pray
and hope for the eventual redemption of all people, and for the
day when all mankind will recognize the One God and serve Him together
in peace and harmony speedily in our days. AMEN