(JTA) — An estimated 15,000 to 20,000 anti-Zionist haredi Orthodox Jews protested in New York against the conscription of haredi yeshiva students in the Israeli army and the arrest of draft dodgers.
Most of the demonstrators Sunday night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn were from the Satmar Hasidic sect, whose Central Rabbinical Congress of the USA and Canada organized the rally. The Satmars had hoped that other Hasidic sects would come out in support of the rally, but they did not due to infighting, Ynet reported.
The protest was held under the banner of “Let My People Go,” a larger campaign against the conscription and the “persecution of the Torah in the Holy Land.”
A video showing haredi Orthodox protesters in Israel during rallies against the draft being handled roughly by police was screened.
The Brooklyn rally, for men and boys only, was held almost entirely in Yiddish.
The Hasidic sect believes a state of Israel should not exist until the Messiah comes.
“It is commonly believed that the State of Israel commits violations of human rights only against its non-Jewish neighbors under the pretense of bringing greater security for Jews,” said Rabbi Aron Jacobowitz, a rally spokesman, said in a statement. “The truth, however, is that they oppose authentic religious Jews who refuse to follow their ideology just as much as they oppose others. To achieve their goal of making us into Zionists, they are oppressing us, expecting us to break down, give up and join them.
“These operations are yet another proof that the state, its spokesmen and actions do not represent the Jewish people. The State of Israel is not a Jewish state, it is a Zionist state,” he said. “We American Jews cannot stand silently by while our brethren in the State of Israel suffer persecution. That’s why we are here today. We need to make our voices heard and say to the world: enough is enough! The Israeli government must be held accountable by the world community for its attacks on our brethren, and they must grant Orthodox Jews their legitimate right to follow their principles and not serve in the army.”