MembersHero or Criminal?

After eight months in prison, Orthodox Jewish activist Benjamin Friedman was warmly welcomed in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Mea Shearim by thousands of fellow members of the Satmar Chassidic sect.

By Israel Today Staff |
Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Friedman was arrested for injuring a police officer during a November 2016 demonstration against Orthodox Jews being drafted like all other Israeli Jews for military service.

“Rabbi Benjamin, the nation stands with you,” his supporters on the streets sang out. “He is a hero who is battling the unbelievers and evil ones in Israel (referring to secular Jews) on God’s behalf,” a young Chassid who was at the recent gathering told Israel Today. “Israel is sinning and we have to stop them. The Almighty is on our side. We have to pray and study Torah. God will defend us, not the army.”

Satmar Chassidim do not recognize the Jewish State of Israel, as it was not founded by the Messiah. For this reason, they categorically refuse any kind of military service. The name Satmar derives from Satu Mare, a town in the former Austro-Hungarian Empire, today situated in northwest Romania. Those Chassidim from the area who survived the Nazi Holocaust went to New York. Today, they follow a strict line...

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