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Neturei Karta (Neturei Kartah, Neturei Karteh) ("Jews Against Zionism") Definition

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Neturei Karta - (Aramaic Literally, "keepers of the gates.") (so called - "Jews against Zionism") A tiny sect of fanatic ultra-orthodox anti-Zionist Jews who do not recognize the state of Israel. They claim that the Jewish state can only be formed when the Messiah comes.

The Neturei Karta are estimated as having about 5,000 members in Israel and sympathizers and members abroad. They are allied with the Satmar Hassidim and have an ideology similar to that of the Vienna anti-Zionist group ( see True Torah Nazis).

Most Neturei Karta are descendants of Hungarian Jews who settled in the Old City of Jerusalem in the early nineteenth century. Like most other orthodox Jews of that period, they devoted most of their time to studying the Talmud and other sacred texts and lived from the Halukah (meaning "distribution), charity collected by professional fund raisers in the Diaspora. The charity was distributed to "Kolelim" communities that run soup kitchens and maintain these perpetual Yeshiva students for the most part in abject poverty. Together with other Jews, they migrated out of the Old city to the immediately adjacent "Meah Shearim" neighborhood, where they settled in the "Hungarian Houses" - Batei Ungarn.

The way of life of the  Neturei Karta , along with other ultra-orthodox Jews, was considered a disgrace by Zionists, who attempted to teach the "old community" Jews to be self-reliant and do productive work. In fact, that was the object of migration from the old city, since it was not possible to make a living within the walled city. The  Neturei Karta objected to the Zionist ethos of productive occupation. Zionist appeals for support for the Yishuv  competed with the activities of the fund raisers for the Kolelim, and Zionist ridicule of their penurious way of life as "parasitic"  did not make it easier for them to raise funds abroad. More than most other ultra-orthodox Jews, such as Agudath Yisrael. Neturei Karta objected to Zionist aims of founding a state before the coming of the Messiah. To bolster their opposition, they cite tractate Ketuboth, verse 111 of the Talmud, which is interpreted as forbidding strife with gentiles in order to form a Jewish state, on the grounds that the destruction of the temple is a punishment from God, which would be rescinded by God. They further rely on an apocryphal legend, according to which God, the Jewish People, and the gentile nations of the world made a pact when the Jews were sent into exile. Under the pact, Jews would not rebel against the non-Jewish world that gave them sanctuary and Jews would not immigrate as a group to the Land of Israel. In return, the gentile nations promised not to persecute the Jews too harshly. Neglecting the history of persecution of the Jews, which many say voided this pact, Neturei Karta argue that by rebelling against the pact, Jews were rebelling against God.

This attitude, despite the pretensions of the Neturei Karteh, probably has no basis in  pre-Zionist Jewish exilic tradition, though the occasion of mass immigration of Jews to the land of Israel or concerted Jewish rebellion against gentiles did not arise very often. It was certainly not a tradition of Sephardic Jews, and opposition to settlement in Israel was not known before the rise of Zionism.  Numerous groups of Jews, including Kabalists and other ultra-orthodox Jews, came to live in the land of Israel, and pious rabbis encouraged their followers to live there as well. With the rise of Zionism, most of the Orthodox world remained aloof from it or opposed it as impractical or dangerous. The injunction against rebellion was generally held by ultra-Orthodox Jews to be a caution against repeating the disastrous rebellion of Bar Kochba. Agudath Yisrael argued against the formation of the state to members of UNSCOP sent to investigate the situation in Palestine after World War II. However, when the State of Israel was founded, most ultra-orthodox Jews took an attitude of cautious cooperation with Zionism, without becoming Zionists.  The attitude of  Agudath Yisrael and similar sects is that the state is no better or worse than gentile governments, and since it contains a large body of Jews, their mission must be to ensure that those Jews follow religious commandments.

However, when the state was founded, Neturei Karta became virulently anti-Zionist. Their attacks against Israel and Zionism became increasingly extreme, especially under the leadership of the notorious Rabbi Amram Blau and his wife, a convert. An extreme element of the Neturei Karteh represented by Rabbi Moshe Hirsh, their self appointed "Foreign Minister," declared that it would rather live under the rule of King Hussein of Jordan. When the Palestinian Authority was established, Hirsh became Yasser Arafat's "Minister for Jewish Affairs." The post was eventually discontinued when Palestinians explained to Arafat that Hirsh was a figure of fun. However, it is claimed that documents captured by the IDF in operation defensive shield indicate that Hirsh received at least $55,000 in payments from the Palestine Authority.

Neturei Karta Rabbi Moshe Hirsh with Yasser Arafat

Rabbi Hirsh with Yasser Arafat

Neturei Karta and other ultra-orthodox Jews differ from Orthodox Zionist Jews in their use of Hebrew and the importance they give to different Jewish holy books. Orthodox Zionist Jews emphasize the Tanach - the Old Testament including the Torah - as the source of empowering authority and the cultural heritage of the Jewish people rooted in the land, and they speak Hebrew in daily life. Neturei Karta and other ultra-orthodox Jews rely on the Talmud and later commentaries as the main sources of scriptural authority. Ironically, they call themselves "True Torah Jews." Neturei Karteh, Satmar and some of the other extreme ultra-orthodox groups do not speak Hebrew in every day conversation, reserving its use as a "holy tongue." They speak Yiddish, and they may be far more fluent in Talmudic Aramaic and Yiddish than in Hebrew.

Neturei Karta and their allies regularly hold demonstrations vilifying Israel. Appropriating for themselves the title of "True Torah Jews," their Web sites claim that Zionism is "heresy" but do not provide a seriously reasoned argument for their claim. They also claim falsely that Zionists deliberately condemned Jews to die in Nazi gas chambers, rather than let them immigrate to destinations other than Palestine. Other anti-Zionists take the Zionist organization to task for saving anti-Zionist Jews such as Joel Teitelbaum, head of the Satmar sect. In Austria, an allied Jewish sect consorts with neo-Nazis. ( see True Torah Nazis ).

Anti-Zionists and anti-Semites magnify the importance of this tiny sect and the supposed authority of their rabbis. "Progressive" groups laud this reactionary coven of fanatics. The claim that their view is the traditional one of rabbinical Judaism does not seem to coincide with the facts. Agudath Yisrael was officially neutral about Zionism, though opposed to the mostly secular Zionist establishment and to formation of a state   Throughout Numerous rabbis came to holy land or urged their followers to do so. The Neturei Karta claim that Zionism is heretical is very dubious because there is no central rabbinical authority in Judaism, and whatever authority there is does not rest with them. The Talmudic injunction was not a commandment or consensual Halachah and was certainly not a central tenet of Judaism such as the existence of God.

The name of Jacob Israel de Haan and his fate has somehow become associated with the Neturei Karteh, possibly because the story associated with him is unfavorable to Zionism. De Haas was never a member of the Neturei Karteh. De Haan was a gifted Orthodox Dutch Jewish poet and journalist, and a homosexual. He emigrated to the land of Israel in 1919, where he was at first an ardent Zionist. He defended Ze'ev  Jabotinsky when the later was tried by the British for defending Jews during the Arab riots of 1920. Subsequently however, de Haan became an anti-Zionist and a sympathizer of Agudath Yisrael . He agitated against Zionism and sent back anti-Zionist dispatches. He was becoming an embarrassment to the British as well as the Zionists. He was murdered in 1924, very probably by the Haganah for unknown reasons, possibly involving betrayal of Haganah members to the British or possibly because he was about to disclose embezzlement of funds.

Synonyms and alternate spellings: Netureh Karta Neturei Karteh,"Jews against Zionism" etc.

Further Information:  True Torah Nazis Jewish anti-Zionism-Jews against Zionism Against Zionism Not Jews

Hebrew/Arabic pronunciation and transliteration conventions:

'H - ('het) a guttural sound made deep in the throat. To Western ears it may sound like the "ch" in loch. In Arabic there are several letters that have similar sounds. Examples: 'hanukah, 'hamas, 'haredi. Formerly, this sound was often represented by ch, especially in German transliterations of Hebrew. Thus, 'hanukah is often rendered as Chanuka for example.

ch - (chaf) a sound like "ch" in loch or the Russian Kh as in Khruschev or German Ach, made by putting the tongue against the roof of the mouth. In Hebrew, a chaf can never occur at the beginning of a word. At the beginning of a word, it has a dot in it and is pronounced "Kaf."

u - usually between oo as in spoon and u as in put.

a- sounded like a in arm

ah- used to represent an a sound made by the letter hey at the end of a word. It is the same sound as a. Haganah and Hagana are alternative acceptable transliterations.

'a-notation used for Hebrew and Arabic ayin, a guttural ah sound.

o - close to the French o as in homme.

th - (taf without a dot) - Th was formerly used to transliterate the Hebrew taf sound for taf without a dot. However in modern Hebrew there is no detectable difference in standard pronunciation of taf with or without a dot, and therefore Histadruth and Histadrut, Rehovoth and Rehovot are all acceptable.

q- (quf) - In transliteration of Hebrew and Arabic, it is best to consistently use the letter q for the quf, to avoid confusion with similar sounding words that might be spelled with a kaf, which should be transliterated as K. Thus, Hatiqva is preferable to Hatikva for example.

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This work and individual entries are copyright 2005-6 by Ami Isseroff and Zionism and Israel Information Center and may not reproduced in any form without permission unless explicitly noted otherwise. Individual entries may be cited with credit to The Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Zionism and Israel


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