(photo credit: )
To the chagrin of mainstream Chabad leaders, the avuncular face of the Lubavitcher Rebbe - accompanied by the statement "A Palestine state is a disaster for Israel" - will grace the sides of Egged buses for the next three weeks.
Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who passed away in June 1994, is referred to in the poster as "the messianic king," the figure who, in Jewish tradition, ushers in the end of days.
The graphics and the billboards were the brainchild of the World Headquarters for the Saving of the Nation and the Land, an organization headed by Rabbi Shlomo Dov Wolpo, a maverick Chabad hassid whose life's mission is to publicize Schneerson's staunch opposition to territorial compromise.
"The rebbe taught that the very discussion of ceding parts of the Land of Israel endangers Jews' lives," says Wolpo.
The campaign was a response to the recently-resuscitated 2002 Saudi peace initiative, said Wolpo. The proposal, which the Arab League recently re-ratified at a summit in Riyadh, calls for Israel to withdrawal from all occupied territories, recognize a Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital and grant right of return to Palestinian refugees.
However, despite basic agreement with the message that territorial concessions are life-threatening, mainstream Chabad leadership is uncomfortable with Wolpo's use of the ultimate Lubavitch symbol - the rebbe's face.
"We totally oppose the use of the term 'messianic king' for the rebbe, and the rebbe did too," said Rabbi Menachem Brod, Chabad's spokesman in Israel.
In an interview with The Jerusalem Post about two years ago, Brod said he had several gripes with Wolpo.
"The man does not recognize official Chabad institutions. He operates as a private individual with no formal ties to Chabad. Even though he does not use the Chabad name, the rebbe's picture gives everyone the impression that everything Wolpo does is supported by Chabad. And sometimes Wolpo's messages are totally contradictory to the rebbe's teachings."
Brod was referring to an announcement Wolpo made on one Holocaust Remembrance Day that "[Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert hooked up with Holocaust denier [Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas] so as to bring another Holocaust on the Jewish people. Olmert is helping the new Nazis to establish a terror state with a Nazi agenda for Judea and Samaria."
Brod said that Wolpo's announcement was antithetical to the rebbe's teachings, which are based on love for the entire Jewish people.