An Interview With Rabbi Amrau Blau, Leader of the Neturei Karta

Friday, June 14, 197 Jewish Journal Page Nineteen Black Flags – White Flags Last year, at this time, most of the population of Israel was celebrating the silver jubilee of Independence Day, watching the military parade in Jerusalem and participating in a variety of family and communal festivities. One dissenting group in Jerusalem, however, declared it a day of mourning for 25 years of rebellion against the sovereignty of G-d.” Wearing ash and sackcloth, carrying black flags and anti-Zionist banners, thousands marched through the streets of Meah Shearim and vicinity in an orderly protest against “the usurpation of the sacred name “Israel’ by : Zionist impostors.”

This group, which still refuses to recognize the State of Israel, is the “Neturei Karta” (Guardians of the City), and to give readers an insight into its philosophis and attitudes, we put some probing questions to Neturei Karta’s venerable leader, Rabbi Amram Blau, and to the group’s spokesman, an American-born Rosh Yeshiva).

M.R.:– “What is the significance of the black flags your people. carried on Independence Day?”

Rabbi Blau: “Much of the Jewish world thinks the state (of Israel) is the most fortunate thing that has ever happened. We consider the state the greatest misfortune, a manifestation that must be excluded from Jewry because it is neither representative of Klal Yisroel nor deserving of the name Israel.”

Spokesman: “You might call our march a counter-parade to the Zionist military parade which celebrated three kinds of independence – independence from G-d, independence from Jewish heritage and independence from society. For their ‘silver anniversary’, they created a ‘silver calf ‘- spending tens of millions of Lira to demonstrate their belief in their own power and to deny G-d. Ours was a counter-parade of loyalty to G-d.”

M.R.:– “Who are the ‘we’, to whom you refer?” Anyone who has Torah knowledge and values is a Neturei Karta man in some measure. We are guardians of the city, guardians of our heritage.

M.R.: “If not for the state, what would have happened to all the refugees from the D.P. camps in Europe and those who fled from the Arab lands?”

Spokesman: “In regard to Jews from Arab lands, there is documentary proof that in lands like Morocco, anti-Jewish actions were fomented by Zionist plotters to trigger aliya.”

M.R.:- “There are those, even among the religious Zionists, who claim that had there been a state back in the Thirties to absorb European Jewry, the lives of six million Jews could have been saved. What do you say?”

Rabbi Blau:– “This is outright heresy. Zionists violated the ‘three oaths’ mentioned by the Talmud as G-d’s orders against working for a Jewish state and this brought upon Jewry such as calamity in which Jewish bodies were urned into Nazi soup. In all such matters what seem to be questions for non-believers are actually answers for us.”

Spokesman:– “Books such as ‘Perfidy’ and ‘Min Hametzar’ attest, to the Zionist betrayal of our six million brethren. History has also presented us with an ironic turnabout. The Zionists once championed the Judenstaat as the savior of the Jewish world; now they appeal to the Jewish world to help save the Jewish state.”

M.R.:– “But if not for the state and its army would we not have been destroyed by the Arabs?”

Rabbi Blau:– “We had lived at peace with the Arabs for centuries and had no reason to assume trouble with them if not for Zionist agitators. I, myself, lived together with the Arabs in Jerusalem for two decades before the Balfour Declaration, and I assure you that, they are no different from any other gentiles with whom Jews live in peace throughout the world.”.

Spokesman:-“History shows that until the Zionists came along, the Arabs caused less trouble for Jews than any other nation. Ray Sonnenfeld, the rabbi of Jerusalem, even had several meetings with King Abdullah on Jewish-Arab coexistence.

M.R.:– “I see that you wear a pin which says in three languages, what one of your protest placards said: ‘A Jew is not a Zionist.’ What do you mean by this?”

Rabbi Blau:– “Zionism is counterfeit Judaism, for it seeks to transform the Jewish nation from a people of the Torah into just another nationalistic group interested in state and territory.”

M.R:– “Why do you continue these demonstrations, even though they seem so futile in regard to influencing the Zionists?

Rabbi Blau:– “We are out to reach those Jews who are still willing to listen and to prevent them from becoming nationalists. Such Jews.- are steadily increasing in number and represent an important force.”

Spokesman: “We hope to convince the world, Jews and non-Jews, that Jews and Zionists are not the same. This has its effect, because Israel is very dependent on international public opinion.”

M.R.:-“Was the Neturei Karta behind other deinonstrations ver religious issues such as the ones against the Eros sex shops and autopsies?”

Rabbi Blau:– “Demonstrations specifically directed against the state, such as the one on 5 lyar, involve Neturei Karta pcople exclusively. Past demonstrations, such as the one against drafting girls, which drew 50,000 protesters, and the ones against Sabbath violation by traffic in religious neighborhoods, which aroused thousands to action each week, were organized by Neturei Karta, but their participants were not necessarily our members.”

M.R.:-“How would you estimate the strength of Neturei Kärta in terms of actual numbers?” ..,

Rabbi Blau:-“The Zionist public applies the term ‘Neturei. Karta’ to anyone demonstrating against the state or its institutions for whatever the cause may be. In this manner you even sometimes find Mizrachi people attacked as Neturei Karta and every Shomer Shabbos runs the risk of being labeled a fanatic.”

Spokesman:– “Aside from our local organization, Neturei Karta has organized support in Europe and North and South America. These allies help us counteract the lies of propaganda by supplying the international public with the truth about religious life here and the aims of the Neturei Karta in guarding the true identity of our nation.”

In this second and final part of our interview with the Neturel Karla’s Rabbi Amram Blau, we discussed his relations with the irreligious government, the religious parties and the Eida Hachareidis to which Neturei Karta belongs.

MR.:– Do Neturei Karta members recognize the state in any manner, by fulfilling civic obligation such as taxes and military service or by enjoying benefits such ** social insurance family allowances?

Rabbi Blau:. The Zionists have brazenly proclaimed their denial of G-d, His Torah, and seek to bring about the assimilation of all Jewry. The faithful Jew has always been prepared to sacrifice his life rather than surrender to such enemies. The degree of resistance, however, varies according to the individual’s understanding an courage. The determined Jew in Nazi concentration camp refused to accept even the smallest favor from those who had set themselves up as the tormentors and executioners of his people. Wenker Jews accepted the piece of bread which kept them from starving. We, here, are captives in a Godless state Taxes are paid only when household possessions are seized. But there are weaker once amongst us, who find themselves unable to resist the favors offered by the Zionists.

It is therefore difficult to generalize about the non-participation of all our people in matters connected with the state.”

Spokesman: “It is obvious that they expect us to serve in the army of our ideological enemies. In regard to taking from the government; I ask: Why do the Zionists offer aid to Yeshivos and religious families when they are aware that the recipients of this support opposite them? It is either because this helps the state’s image abroad and increases its fundraising potential or because they wish to huş infiltrate religious circles. Our refusal to accept help is therefore based on our unwillingness to help the Zionists in their fundraising and our determination not in

M.R.:-“Your condemnations seem to apply to those who are in power. What do you say about the irreligious masses? Aren’t all… Jews entitled to ‘Ahavas Yisroel?”

Spokesman:: “The four areas of Zionist indoctrination – the school, the army, the neighborhood and the job have succeeded in vacuumizing the souls of many Jews here. We feel responsible for these souls because Kial Yisroel is like one big family charged with mutual responsibility. We therefore battle against the system which corrupts these unfortunate victims.”

M.R.:-“What about the religious Jews in Israel? Why is your group so critical of Agudas Israel?”

Rabbi Blau:– “Declaring that ‘a state is a different story’, the Agudists leserted the battle and joined those who rebel against G-d. By articipating in the Knesset, they sanction the general rebellion against Torah and pervert their judgment in regard to Zionist wrongdoing – all in order to gain government funds for their Chinuch atzmai Schools.”

Spokesman:– “One of the big complaints we have against Agudah is that its activities within the state blur the lines of demarcation between the religious and secularist camps.”

M.R.:– “But you do identify with the Eida Hachareidis. What differences are there between the Eida and the Neturei Karta?”

Rabbi Blau:– “Except for one difference, a theoretical one at that, the Neturei Karta and the Eida Hachareidis are in complete harmony. We believe that elections should be held for the Eide leadership and that all those who vote in Zionist elections should be barred from voting in these elections. The Eida agrees with our voting restriction in principle, but it circumvents the issue by not holding elections–the last elections were held 30 years ago. This position is based on the fear that the prestige of the Eida, gained over the years because of its excellent kashrus supervision, would be damaged if the lines of demarcation were so sharply drawn, making it even more difficult to maintain such a kashrus system. The majority has accepted this argument and has replaced elections with a consensus among the factions within the Eida to perpetuate the system of representation which has existed in the past. We oppose such evasion and urge holding elections which will purify, albeit thin, our ranks.”

Spokesman: “The Eida was established by religious. Jewry as an alternative to the ‘official’, rabbinate created by the Zionists in order to conform to their political needs. The British Mandate recognized the Eida as an independent community and the Zionists did not tamper with this status. In fact, there was a time when the state’s leaders turned in desperation to the Eida as an alternative to their own rabbinate. This was during the controversy over the Marbek slaughterhouse. Yisrael Yeshayahu, today the Knesset Speaker, offered to take kashrus supervision away from the Mizrachi, which was giving him a hard time, and to hand it over to the Eida. He changed his mind when the Eida people told him that their kashrus standards were even more severe. The Neturei Karta developed within the Eida as a response to the problems created by the state.”

M.R.:– “Do you pray at the Western Wall”

Spokesman:– “The Wall points up the hypocrisy of Zionism. At that very site stood two Botei Hamikdosh buildings for a total of 830 years. When G-d decided we were no longer worthy of such a sanctuary. He allowed it to be destroyed and caused our land to be taken from us. Now along come some people who roll up their sleeves and arrogantly announce: “We’ll take it back ourselves, without G-d’s help.’ This is Zionism in a nutshell.”

M.R.:– “Who does the Neturei Karta recognize as its “daas Torah : authority?”

Rabbi Blau:– “We recognize the Satmar Rav as the Rav of Jerusalem and his decisions are binding.”

M.R.:-: “Have you ever been imprisoned for your anti-Zionist activities?”

Rabbi Blau:– “I have been in jail for my role in religious demonstrations. For protesting against a Jerusalem hotel offering the public mixed swimming, I served five months of a ten-month sentence. I don’t recall ever being imprisoned for protesting against the state itself.”

Spokesman:– “Rabbi Blau was once arrested for taking two steps in the wrong direction during an anti-autopsy demonstration. Such an uproar of posters, cables and demonstrations followed his arrest that Police Chief Bareli quickly released him and vowed never to imprison him again. The Chazon Ish went out of his way to visit Rabbi Blau in prison after a Sabbath demonstration, explaining that he was ‘visiting the Sabbath itself.’ ”

M.R.:– “Do you ride local buses and trains?”

Rabbi Blau:- “I have not patronized local buses for the past 40 years. The climax for me came when the bus drivers decided to flagrantly desecrate the Sabbath by holding their organizational meeting on that holy day. It was then that I started my personal boycott of the buses. I avoid trains because the railroad is state-owned. My traveling is done exclusively in taxis owned by Sabbath-observing Jews or. Arabs.”

Spokesman:-“In regard to the Sabbath problem, we used to patronize Jerusalem buses when they were operated by Sabbath-observing ‘hamekaher.’ When the giant ‘Egged’ monopoly swallowed the little company, we ceased riding the buses because Egged has a long record of Sabbath violations, ranging from full-day Saturday service in most of Haifa, to the resumption of service in almost every other city, hours before the conclusion of the Sabbath. When the company’s operation of Saturday excursions to the beach sparked weekly demonstrations, the police asked Egged to halt these provocations. Up to date Egged has ignored this.

M.R.:– “Don’t you view all the international attention focused on the Middle East as an indication of our being on the threshold of a Messianic era?”

Rabbi Blau:– “Faithful Jews have always known how to separate illusion from reality. All wars and victories are only G-d’s way of testing our loyalty to His Torah. Even miracles can happen for the wrong people as trials of faith for the right ones. The trouble is that too many well-meaning Jews allow themselves to be duped by Zionist propaganda.

 

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