Attempting to Understand the Neturei Karta

By: Gabriella Gomperts  |  October 11, 2023

By Gabriella Gomperts, Staff Writer

On October 10, 2023, I along with 30,000 other New Yorkers attended a pro-Israel rally in Midtown Manhattan. The rally itself was amazing and inspiring, uniting all of New York’s Jews. 

I was about to head home with my cousins when we heard someone say, “the Neturei Karta are here.” This was not all that surprising, as the Neturei Karta have made a habit of publicly voicing their disdain for the state of Israel whenever a conflict with the Palestinians escalates. Although I was obviously angry to hear this, I have to admit, I was interested to see them in person. 

The Neturei Karta have always seemed weird and almost cartoonish to me. They often appear at pro-Palestinian protests, bolstering the Palestinian’s image and giving credence to their arguments for abolishing the Jewish state. 

As we walked up to 2nd Avenue and caught our first glimpse of the Neturei Karta, I was amused to find that the caricatured image in my head wasn’t all that inaccurate to what I saw before me. There were around twenty members, all sticking together in a bunch with their posters and Palestinian flags.

I call them cartoonish and amusing because visually, the Neturei Karta don’t make sense. These men are so visibly frum, with their black hats and flip-phones in hand, that seeing the Palestinian flag amongst them was like seeing Joe Biden in a MAGA hat. 

The west side of 2nd Avenue between 47th and 48th was closed off with barriers, and an enclosure of these barriers were arranged in the shape of a box for the Neturei Karta to assemble inside of. The bus lane and a row of about ten police officers separated them from the pro-Israel protesters. Besides those officers, many more were milling around the scene and the surrounding blocks of the rally. 

The pro-Israel protesters were, quite angry, including myself. These have been the worst few days in Jewish history since the Holocaust. Innocent Jews and civilians have been viciously murdered, beheaded, tortured, raped, and kidnapped. How could our own people possibly support such evil? 

Frankly speaking, I happily joined in on the chants, name calling, cursing, and singing. I was rightfully furious, and it felt good to release all the pent up negative energy. 

Simultaneously, it occurred to me that these people are Jewish. They are members of the nation I would take a bullet for if necessary. I decided to really look at them, to try and find a semblance of anything that would help me understand these people.

They held up their posters and Palestinian flags. Perhaps they were talking quietly amongst themselves, but they never raised their voices or even looked up at us. It occurred to my cousin that they might not understand a word we were saying. I wonder if anyone has actually sat down and talked with these guys, gave them the patience and empathy we’re begging of them. 

I didn’t know what to make of it all. I still don’t. I just pray that one day we could all come together as Jews, united as one.