Anti-Zionist Protest: 20000 Orthodox Jews meet in Brooklyn, New York

Close to 20,000 Orthodox Jews gathered on Sunday at the Barclays Center basketball arena in Brooklyn to protest the Israeli law mandating Orthodox conscription into the IDF, which they described as “Israel’s persecution of religious Jews”.

Rabbi David Niederman, who serves as a liaison for the Central Rabbinical Congress, one of the groups involved in the event, told The Jerusalem Post that he views Orthodox conscription to the army as a violation of religious freedom.

“Since 1948, when the government was founded, they understood that there is such a thing as [Yeshiva] students who are studying and they are exempt of military services,” he said. “But for the past few years [Israeli politicians] have been trying to tighten the screw, and basically forcefully recruiting and forcefully bringing them in for military service, to which they object.”

“Unprecedented things happened: there are people who protest those conditions, people who are upset that [Israel] violates their right to their religious adherence,” Rabbi Niederman added. “When they go out and speak their minds, they are badly beaten.”

The rally, lead by members of the anti-Zionist Satmar Hasidic group almost entirely in Yiddish, took place amid unrest in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods of Jerusalem, where violent protests have erupted in the past months, over the same issue.

Sunday’s rally at Barclays Center was part of a larger campaign entitled “Let Our People Go”, which was launched a few days earlier.

Organizers have been touring New York City in trucks with large displays promoting the cause. In addition, they published a video ad showing Orthodox Jews being beaten and arrested by Israeli police, painting Israeli authorities as cruel and discriminatory.

“We are here, starting this campaign and making sure that the world knows that unfortunately Orthodox Jews are being persecuted because of their religious beliefs,” Rabbi Niederman told The Post. “This harassment of freedom of religion, freedom of assembly and speech must stop. We demand this from other countries, so we definitely demand it from a country that calls itself the Jewish state.”

When asked why Orthodox Jews shouldn’t serve in the army, as they live in Israel, he answered that the issue of the country’s draft laws is not about manpower.

“They don’t need manpower to secure their borders,” he said. “There is a hidden agenda here to try to change what the Jewish community believes in, forcing them to change their religion and culture.”

Despite the anti-Zionist nature of Sunday’s gathering and the Satmar group in general, Rabbi Niederman wished to make clear: “We are not anti-Israel,”

“We pray three times a day and we are yearning for the time that we are going to come back to Israel. It will be a time of freedom, no fights, and people will be there to worship Hashem,” he said. “Our message to the government of Israel is that we are here, we will continue to be here and nobody is going to force us to change.”

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