Satmar rebbe mourns Temple, flaunts power over Zionists

Haaretz, Israel/August 17, 2007

Japanese tourists visiting the Mt. Scopus promenade were startled yesterday when hundreds of black-clad haredis suddenly emerged and took over the observation site.

One ultra-Orthodox man wearing glasses and an embroidered silk coat started crying when he turned to face Temple Mount. He was accompanied by the crowd's mournful chanting.

Someone drew a knife and made a long rent in his silk coat. Everyone in the crowd followed suit and tore their coats.

The bespectacled man was Rabbi Aharon Teitelbaum, son of the late Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum and the new spiritual leader (Admor) of the Satmar hasidic dynasty. His uncle, Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum, the ideological leader of the anti-Zionist ultra-Orthodox hasids, wrote a book after the Six-Day War explaining the prohibition against visiting and praying at the Western Wall.

A remnant of the Temple had fallen into the hands of "a foreign occupier," or "the other," he wrote.

Thus the rebbe opened his second day in Israel by observing the Temple Mount from afar and renting his coat in mourning. Zionist policemen stood guard around him as he did so, on land occupied by Zionist soldiers, just like the Western Wall.

"Zionism is the father of fathers of impurity," the rabbi told the thousands who crowded in Jerusalem's Shabbat Square on Wednesday.

But the days when Satmar waged ideological wars against Zionism are over, and the sect has directed its passion inward, causing a rift between Rabbi Aharon and his younger brother Rabbi Zalman Leib. The world's largest hasidic sect split a year and a half ago, with their father's death.

Neither faction is overly concerned with whose rebbe is the greater spiritual leader. Money is the name of the game. Like other hasidic courts that were torn apart by inheritance struggles, the factions compete over money and rich supporters, who enable them to maintain institutions -- or merely to flaunt their wealth.

Rabbi Aharon is devoting his visit to demonstrating the anti-Zionist sect's power. In his address on Wednesday, he blasted the ultra-Orthodox sects that receive Zionist funds.

"We'll show the whole world that we can build Torah institutions without the Zionists' help," he said. True Torah scholars throughout the generations have prohibited joining the "evil ones" and enjoying what they have, he said.

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