Corridors of Power: Assorted zealots and puzzling protests

Natorei Karta and Braslav hassidim find themselves on opposing sides of the political divide.

neturei karta 298.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
neturei karta 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
The diversified yet unanimously extremist zealots of Jerusalem have always managed to embroil themselves in the strangest of situations - from the Natorei Karta delegation that attended the infamous Holocaust denial congress in Teheran under the patronage of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, to the participation of members of the Hirsch dynasty in the Palestinian National Council. Or to give a historic example, the meticulous observance of this tiny community to ask for King Hussein of Jordan's permission to pray at the Western Wall a few hours after it was liberated/conquered by the IDF paratroopers in 1967. One of the community's leaders, Yoelish Krauss, has a sign on his door stating that "Here lives a non-Zionist Jew" and drags himself daily to a nearby Arab village to purchase some "non-Zionist" milk and bread for his large family. Lest it be said otherwise, he refuses to accept even one Zionist shekel from the National Insurance Institute. The behavior of Natorei Karta may be infuriating, but one has to admit it is nothing beyond the basic right to express different opinions as provided by any average democracy. After all, as they argue, they were here well before the Zionists. Most of their protests are famous for being connected to the "perverted customs and ways" of the Zionist state or municipality (parking-lot issues, for example). Much less is known to the public at large about internal struggles between the different hassidic courts and streams. But these do happen, and much more than the outside world - Zionist or not - is aware of. One of these internal struggles is taking place now between Natorei Karta and the somewhat rebellious members of the Shuvu Banim stream, who are officially part of the Braslav community. For the sake of those who already feel totally lost in the hallowed halls of the haredi world, the Braslav Hassidism is part of the non-Zionist Eda Haredit. But - and this is a big "but" - a large part of them, especially the segment that is made of repentants, have a right-wing political bent, and their fierce support goes (together with a well-known disdain for the Arabs) to the Jewish residents of the Shimon Hatzadik/Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. "So what?" most of us would say. "Don't we have enough on our plate without having to pay attention to inter-haredi disputes?" Enough, more than enough admits "Corridors," but this particular dispute has the potential to degenerate into violence. On one side are Palestinians with Israeli leftists and foreign supporters - and some representatives of Natorei Karta. And facing them are Jewish settlers, right-wing supporters and Shuvu Banim Braslavs. Oh yes, and almost all of them, especially the haredim from all sides, are busy throwing stones at each other! No wonder some of the foreigners seem totally puzzled. "Corridors" agrees - this is getting much too perplexing, even for a Jewish (Zionist or not) mind. On a more earthly issue, it seems that the calm and serenity that Kikar Safra has been enjoying since the last elections are coming to an end. According to a letter sent to all the municipality's employees, a strike will start on September 1 (if nothing happens before that). The reason invoked by the chairman of the workers committee is very simple: They are protesting the administration's refusal to cancel the use of security cameras and private detectives to ferret out employees who spend office hours working on their own private affairs. Zion Dahan, the chairman of the committee, says that employees come to his office daily to complain, "sometimes in tears," about the detectives who follow them. But he adds that he is always ready to find "peaceful solutions instead of strikes" but that so far, nothing is moving. Stay tuned.