The leader of the world’s largest anti-Zionist hassidic sect surprised followers on Monday when he condemned protests being held by anti-draft activists in Israel.
Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum, one of two Satmar Rebbes who lay claim to the hassidic dynasty, blasted recent protests by the extremist Yerushalmi Faction against the draft of yeshiva students.
The comments were made during an address to followers in Kiryas Joel, New York on Monday.
“They are not [righteous] zealots,” said Rabbi Teitelbaum, “they are newcomers with no tradition of how to protest.”
The Rebbe condemned the methods used by demonstrators, arguing their tactics – including blocking roads across the country – amounted to “lawlessness”.
“We’ve been fighting against the Zionists for more than 60 years now, but there was never any lawlessness like this. Jerusalem residents are suffering, with roads shut down [by protesters] and other actions.”
“Imagine yourselves here in New York shutting down Lee Avenue, Bedford Avenue, or the BQE [Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, Interstate Highway 278].”
Criticism of the Yerushalmi Faction aside, however, the Rebbe clarified that he did support other efforts to express opposition to the draft of yeshiva students, saying it was permissible to take part in a mass prayer against the draft law scheduled for Tuesday evening in Jerusalem.
Some prominent haredi rabbis, however, appear to be backing the Yerushalmi Faction’s planned demonstration.
Posters plastered across haredi neighborhoods claims 16 notable Sephardic haredi rabbinic figures have endorsed the protest, including Rabbi Shlomo Mahfud (Machpud), Rabbi Ben-Tzion Mutzafi, and Rabbi Yitzhak Bracha.