Thousands of haredi men and women gathered at Kikar Shabbat in Jerusalem’s ultra- Orthodox Mea Shearim neighborhood to greet and listen to the grand rabbi of the Satmar hassidic dynasty Zalman Leib Teitelbaum, on Sunday night.

The massive gathering was called to demonstrate against participation in Tuesday’s general election, and the thousands of attendees were told not to vote in the upcoming ballot.

Satmar is a fiercely anti-Zionist hassidic group and its leaders view any interaction with the State of Israel as prohibited, due to the secular foundations of its laws and an interpretation of a Talmudic passage which they say forbids Jews from setting up a sovereign state in the Land of Israel before the arrival of the Messiah.

The protest was organized in conjunction with the similarly anti-Zionist Eda Haredit communal association, and the leading rabbis of the organization also addressed the crowd.

Festive lights were festooned along Mea Shearim Street and in Kikar Shabbat, while banners with celebratory verses from the Torah were strung across the main square and its approaches, to welcome the rebbe.

Huge signs declaring that voting in the election is forbidden according to the Torah accompanied the more joyful decorations.

Teitelbaum, who lives in New York, arrived in Israel on Sunday afternoon, and was provided with a police escort on his way to Jerusalem.

As well as to protest the elections, the Satmar Rebbe is also in the country for the wedding of one of his granddaughters.

Earlier this month, Teitelbaum, who lives in New York, promised to pay $100 in cash to anyone who agreed not to vote in the upcoming Israeli elections.

Anyone seeking to claim their reward for not voting will have to deposit their identity card and driving license with a Satmar representative on election day.

According to the Kikar Hashabbar website, Teitelbaum is also expected to distribute approximately $5 million to various religious institutions who refuse to accept any state-funds whatsoever.

The spiritual leader of the non-hassidic haredi world Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman, along with the Grand Rabbis of the Viznitz and Belz hassidic groups among others, have in contrast repeatedly called on their followers to vote in the upcoming elections, saying that do so is a religious obligation.

The haredi rabbinic leadership has repeatedly declared this election to be a time of religious emergency due to proposed legislation they see as threatening to the ultra- Orthodox world, lifestyle and interests.

Proposed legislation to rescind the mass exemptions from military service which full-time yeshiva students were able to claim until last August is one of the leading issues of concern for the haredi leadership.

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