400 Satmar Hasidim Hold Rally to Protest Digs at City of David
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400 Satmar Hasidim Hold Rally to Protest Digs at City of David

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An estimated 400 Satmar hasidim converged on the Israeli Consulate in mid-Manhattan today to protest archaeological digs at an ancient Jewish cemetery in Jerusalem and the arrest of religious demonstrators at the site.

Carrying signs saying, “Let Our Sages Rest in Peace” and “Stop Maiming Men, Women and Children Indiscriminately in Jerusalem,” the hasidim condemned the “atrocities” committed against “peaceful religious demonstrators” in Jerusalem. They charged the Israeli police with “clubbing and striking” and using tear gas on the protestors.

In a statement released earlier, the Satmar stressed that the demonstration was being called for Tisha B’Av, a day marked by fasting and mourning to commemorate the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem by the Babylonians and the Romans. The statement noted “how sad and ironic” it was for Jews “to have to … protest the tragic desecration of a cemetery near the site of the temples” on Tisha B’Av.

Israel’s Consul General Naphtalie Lavie told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency he felt it was “disgusting that Jews should demonstrate against the rebirth of Israel on the day of the destruction of Israel.”

Lavie said that he had accepted an offer by the Satmar to meet with a delegation of hasidim, but on the condition that a demonstration would not accompany the meeting. “They preferred a demonstration,” he said.

The dig at the City of David near the Old City of Jerusalem has sparked clashes between the ultra-Orthodox Neturei Karta sect and police. Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek and others have demanded that Rabbi Moshe Hirsh, a leader of the sect, be deported.

This afternoon’s protest rally was peaceful and with out incident. The hasidim stayed behind police barricades set up across the street from the Israel Consulate listening to speeches in Yiddish and English, and lamentations traditionally recited on Tisha B’Av. Occassionally they roared when descriptions of Israeli “atrocities” were cited.

“They stand on the same sidewalk that the Khomeini people stood last week,” Lavie observed. He was referring to a protest rally by supporters of Iran’s ruler during which demonstrators carried placards stating, “Zionism is Racism ” and “The Arab Kings are Puppets of the Zionist Imperialists.”

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