Media Coverage of Today's Protest in Manhattan

March 9, 2014

http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/orthodox-nyc-jews-protest-proposed-is...

Orthodox NYC Jews Protest Proposed Israeli Draft

NEW YORK March 9, 2014 (AP)
By VERENA DOBNIK Associated Press

Thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews filled the streets in lower Manhattan on Sunday to protest Israel's proposal to draft strictly religious citizens into its army.

The gathering took up a stretch of 10 blocks, with dark-clothed demonstrators standing behind police barricades amid tight security. Organizers kept to tradition, with men and women in separate groups as they are at religious events.

Shmuel Gruis, 18, a rabbinical student from Phoenix studying at a Long Island yeshiva, was clutching two tomes of Jewish prayers as he hurried to the male section of the rally.

Of the Israeli Orthodox young men who would be affected by a mandatory draft, he said, "These kids, a lot of them don't know how to hold a gun. They don't know what physical warfare is."

"Their whole world and their whole lifestyle is peace and love and in doing mitzvahs," he said, using the Yiddish word for good deeds. "And you take a bunch of kids out of the environment where they come from — in my eyes, it's wrong."

Sunday's prayer event brought together a community of New York's most Orthodox Jews, based in Brooklyn and in the village of Kiryas Joel in Orange County, north of the city.

"We're all united against military service for religious men in Israel because it doesn't allow for religious learning," said Peggy Blier, an interior designer from Brooklyn. "The Israeli government is looking to destroy religious society and make the country into a secular melting pot."

http://nypost.com/2014/03/09/ultra-orthodox-jews-rally-against-proposed-...

Ultra-Orthodox Jews rally against proposed Israeli draft

Thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews rallied in Downtown Manhattan on Sunday afternoon to protest proposed new legislation in Israel that would allow them to be drafted into the army there.

The demonstrators held a mass prayer service over several blocks near Wall Street starting around 2 p.m. in response to the proposal to draft the strict religious citizens into the army. The bill could go into effect in 2017.

“Until now, they gave us the respect since we’re religious and we study, that we should stay in the yeshivas,” said Rabbi Jacob Kellner, 57, who drove three hours from upstate Monroe for the event. “Now. they’re changing that. This is very strongly a lack of respect.”

Kellner, who travels frequently to Israel, has 13 children, seven of whom could be affected if the law passes.

“It’s devastating, there’s no compromise,” he said. “I tell my kids, ‘If you get drafted, I would rather you go to jail, than to serve.’ It’s so dangerous the situation there.”

Previously, ultra-Orthodox Jews were exempt from having to serve in the military if they were enrolled in a Yeshiva, or religious study.

“It’s going to be opposed by everyone,” said Yitz Farkas, 27. “You can’t force someone to do something that everyone opposes. “

Last Sunday, hundreds of thousands of Ultra-Orthodox Jews gathered in Jerusalem to protest the proposal.

http://www.haaretz.com/jewish-world/jewish-world-news/1.578819

Orthodox Jews in N.Y. protest Israeli draft bill
Protesters also say they're against Israeli settlements in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

A group of ultra-Orthodox Jews staged a mass prayer in New York City to protest Israel's proposal to draft ultra-Orthodox citizens into its army.

Sunday's gathering in Manhattan brought together a community of New York's most Orthodox Jews who are based in Brooklyn and in the village of Kiryas Joel in Orange County, north of the city.

Protester Yitz Farkas, an American citizen, said religious Jews should not be forced to join a secular army. Protesters also said they are against Israeli settlements in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and that they believe Israel should exist only after the Messiah arrives.

On Sunday, organizers said they would honor their tradition of separating men from women at religious events by doing the same at the rally.

http://news.yahoo.com/orthodox-nyc-jews-protest-proposed-israeli-draft-1...

Orthodox NYC Jews protest proposed Israeli draft

By VERENA DOBNIK Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — Lower Manhattan turned into a human river of black-garbed people on Sunday as tens of thousands ultra-Orthodox Jews took to the streets, their anguished prayers booming through loudspeakers in protest of Israel's proposal to draft strictly religious citizens into its military.

Amid tight security, they stood behind police barricades stretching across 10 blocks.

Organizers kept to tradition, with men and women in separate groups as they are at religious events — the men wearing skull caps or black top hats.

Their message to Israel was simple.

"We're all united against military service for religious men in Israel because it doesn't allow for religious learning," said Peggy Blier, an interior designer from Brooklyn. "The Israeli government is looking to destroy religious society and make the country into a secular melting pot.

Israel's parliament, the Knesset, is expected to vote on the conscription bill later this month.

The bill, which would not go fully into effect until 2017, would impose criminal sanctions on ultra-Orthodox draft dodgers. However, yeshiva students would have the right to defer service until age 26.

Shmuel Gruis, 18, a rabbinical student from Phoenix studying at a Long Island yeshiva, was clutching two tomes of Jewish prayers as he hurried to the male section of Sunday's rally.

Of the Israeli Orthodox youths who would be affected by a mandatory draft, he said, "These kids, a lot of them don't know how to hold a gun. They don't know what physical warfare is."

"Their whole world and their whole lifestyle is peace and love and in doing mitzvahs," he said, using the Yiddish word for good deeds. "And you take a bunch of kids out of the environment where they come from — in my eyes, it's wrong."

The gathering came a week after about 300,000 demonstrators in Jerusalem protested the Knesset proposal by blocking roads and paralyzing the city.

In New York, the activists poured out of Manhattan subway tunnels onto Fulton, Water and Pearl streets — just steps from Wall Street.

Sunday's two-hour rally brought together New York's most Orthodox Jews from various sects, many based in Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island, others living in the village of Kiryas Joel in Orange County, north of the city.

Organizers put the crowd count at over 50,000.

Some of the Hebrew prayers were led by Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum, a spiritual head of the Satmars living in Brooklyn's Williamsburg neighborhood.

As the largest Jewish community outside Israel, the New Yorkers have tight bonds with Orthodox Israelis, some of whom emigrated from the United States.

"The problem is, anyone who goes into the Israeli military becomes secular, and that would erase our whole tradition," says Yitz Farkas, a member of the Brooklyn-based True Torah Jews organization.

Since Israel's founding in 1948, the ultra-Orthodox, who make up about 8 percent of Israel's 8 million citizens, largely have been allowed to avoid compulsory military service to pursue their religious studies.

The ultra-Orthodox insist their young men serve the nation through prayer and study, maintaining a pious way of life that has kept Jewish culture alive through centuries of persecution.

But the exemption issue has ripped open a huge gash between Israel's secular majority and a passionate religious minority.

Enraged secular Israelis say the ultra-Orthodox are not doing their fair share by being exempt from service that is compulsory for other Jewish Israelis.

The issue was at the core of last year's election, which brought to power a center-right government that has been pushing for reforms requiring the ultra-Orthodox to serve in the military.

http://www.haaretz.com/jewish-world/jewish-world-features/.premium-1.578...

The pious of Wall Street pray for a reprieve from the 'evil' Israeli draft law

Some 50,000 ultra-Orthodox Jews attended Sunday’s 'Great Prayer Assembly' in New York to bolster their 'embattled brethren' in Israel in advance of the upcoming Knesset vote on the controversial legislation.

The scene was completely surreal: A crying cantor beseeching the Lord in Yiddish-accented Hebrew to hear his prayers; high-octane loudspeakers amplifying the cry throughout lower Manhattan; tens of thousands of black-coated ultra-Orthodox Jews earnestly repeating the Psalms in the freezing cold; some of New York’s finest, duly exasperated; and the looks of astonishment on the faces of unsuspecting tourists who thought they were simply walking the alleyways near Wall Street when they encountered a sight that may be commonplace in Bnei Brak but seemed utterly fantastic in the heart of New York.

Some 50,000 ultra-Orthodox believers pushed themselves onto Water Street near the East River on Sunday afternoon, heeding the call to attend the “Great Prayer Assembly” aimed at bolstering “our embattled brethren” who are fighting the new Israel Defense Forces draft law which is due to come to a Knesset vote soon. They came in buses from Brooklyn, on the subway from Queens, on ferries from Staten Island, in cars from Manhattan and in convoys from Monsey, New York, in the north,to Lakewood, New Jersey, in the south.

“This is a demonstration of force,” I hear some expert analysis from journalist Jacob Kornbluh. “Agudat Israel in America wanted to prove that they were no less adept than their colleagues in Israel in mobilizing the masses,” he says. “And the Satmar Rebbe Aaron Teitelbaum” – locked in a power struggle with his brother Zalman – “wanted to show how successful he’s been in convincing his followers of Israel’s hostility to anything religious.”

“It’s an evil law because it’s an effort to uproot the religious from Israel,” a yeshiva student from Lakewood duly tells me, though he prefers to remain anonymous, “because we are not allowed to talk to people like you.” Then his friend chimes in: “Israel exists because of miracles brought about by those who study Torah.”

And they were the moderates. A Satmar youth - who agrees to reveal his first name, Moshe - tells me that “the Zionists created all of these problems with the Arabs, and now they want to drag us to fight their wars for them.”

"Who will defend Israel?" I ask, and he looks at me as if I am a fool.

“It’s better that no one does, so that Israel collapses and Jews can go back to live safely as they always have.” As I leave, his friend gives me a business card of trueotorahjews.com, with the slogan “Zionists do not represent Jews.”

Looking on is Yossi Gleiberman, an older watch salesman from Brooklyn, who refuses to catalogue his religious affiliation because “we’ve all become so labeled.” He says that many Orthodox Jews understand that Israel is challenged by the rapidly growing Haredi population and are willing to “sit down and discuss solutions,” But the answer, he adds, cannot be “criminalizing study of the Torah.”

Gleiberman proudly tells me that he came to the prayer assembly accompanied by two of his sons and a daughter, as well as his wife and her grandmother. The women, of course, are in a separate area, far from the main podium, near the South Street Seaport, where the police try to move them further north as buses full of new demonstrators keep on coming.

After a little more than an hour of prayer, tears and heartfelt grief, the crowd disperses quietly, the policemen heave a big sigh of relief and the tourists from China, Norway and Japan keep on clicking, because without photographic proof, they realize, no one back home will believe them.