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Ultra-Orthodox Jews campaign for dismantling of Israel

The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians in the Middle East still shows little sign of reaching a peaceful resolution. But in New York, there is a group of ultra-Orthodox Jews who believe an end to the state of Israel is the only solution.

For those ultra-orthodox Jews who are devoted to the Palestinian struggle, every rally is an opportunity to voice opposition:

“Judaism yes. Zionism no. The state of Israel must go.”

A particular chorus of Orthodox Jews joins forces with the loud choir of Palestinian supporters. The collective voice is otherwise known as “Neturei Karta”, ultra-traditional Jews religiously opposed to the creation and existence of Israel.

Rabbi Dovid Weiss, Neturei Karta spokesperson says: “It is like a tumor to us. It has latched itself on to us. This terrible evil movement of Zionism, which is the ideology behind the state of Israel. It had hijacked and stolen the Star of David.”

According to rabbi Dovid Weiss, Jews were exiled from the land of Israel because of their sins. Neturei Karta worshipers believe restoration of the land should only happen with the coming of the messiah. Until then “we are forbidden as Jews to have any sovereignty, even in an uninhabited land,” says Weiss.

According to Neturei Karta, Israel and Zionism are in direct conflict with the Torah.

They campaign for Israel to be dismantled and the Holy Land returned to Arabs who originally occupied it.

Neturei Karta can be best understood within the confines of East Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which comprises a large community of anti-Zionist Orthodox Jews.

An inclusive neighbourhood where people are dressed in traditional modest clothing, it is defined by large families of up to 12 kids. People there speak Yiddish, eat kosher, pray three times a day, and display no flag of support for Israel.

The Jewish children living in this community all attend private schools. Boys and girls are separated, and all students learn from a curriculum that opposes Israel and Zionism.

Rabbi Feldman says activism plays a strong role in the religious life of Neturei Karta Jews.This also includes meeting with leaders of Muslim countries.

“[Arabs] have no problem with Jews. They can tolerate Jews and they can host Jews with the greatest respect. They do have a serious problem with occupation, which we happen to agree with,” Feldman says.

Members of Neturei Karta have spoken several times with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who they call a peace-loving leader.

They have publicly praised Turkish officials and even traveled to the country last year, visiting injured activists after the Israeli raid on the Gaza flotilla.

Very often, overseas demonstrations against Israel have turned violent. From London and Montreal to the Middle East, a bloody and bruising backlash often transpired.

Critics have classified Neturei Karta as extremists, and Israeli supporters deem them traitors. Even in New York City. Rabbi Weiss is all too familiar with the dangers that surround Neturei Karta.

“We must be ready to give our lives for this. It’s not easy,” he says.

A life devoted to their faith, even if it means facing contempt every step of the way.