Citing several grievances against the Israeli government and police, between 10,000 and 15,000 Satmar chasidim protested Tuesday outside the Israeli Consulate on Second Avenue.
“The issue was protesting the oppression of religious Jews and the religious way of life in Israel,” said Rabbi David Niederman, director of the United Jewish Council in Williamsburg and a member of the Satmars’ Central Rabbinical Congress, which sponsored the rally.
Satmars oppose the creation of a Jewish state before the arrival of the messiah, although members of the sect live in Israel.
The protesters were outraged by the incarceration and alleged mistreatment of a leading rabbi, Daniel Biton, who was arrested for protesting an archeological dig at a Jewish cemetery in Haifa; the death of another rabbi, Yehuda Samet, who was assaulted – as police allegedly looked on — during a protest against a Jerusalem pornographic shop; and the recent Supreme Court decision to overturn exemptions for yeshiva students who do not want to serve in the Israel Defense Forces.
The Satmars also say the government has used body parts from accidents and other casualties for medical analysis, in violation of Jewish law.
Rabbi Niederman said the protesters had spoken to representatives of the consulate, but “got nowhere. “Speaking respectfully without results doesn’t mean anything,” he said.
Consular spokesman Ido Aharoni said the Israeli chief of police, recently in New York, had investigated the complaints regarding Rabbi Biton and reported that there was “no substance” to them.
“Those who made a decision to live in Israel have to abide by the law,” said Aharoni.