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
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
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
Teitelbaum, who lives in New York, arrived in Israel on
Sunday afternoon, and was provided with a police escort on his way to
As well as to protest the elections, the Satmar Rebbe is also
in the country for the wedding of one of his granddaughters.
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.
to claim their reward for not voting will have to deposit their identity card
and driving license with a Satmar representative on election
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.
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.
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.