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Israel: Activities of anti-Zionist orthodox Jewish groups; including attitudes toward and treatment by authorities of members of anti-Zionist groups, specifically Lev Tohor (December 2004 - June 2007)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa
Publication Date 26 July 2007
Citation / Document Symbol ISR102542.E
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Israel: Activities of anti-Zionist orthodox Jewish groups; including attitudes toward and treatment by authorities of members of anti-Zionist groups, specifically Lev Tohor (December 2004 - June 2007), 26 July 2007, ISR102542.E, available at: [accessed 15 December 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Current information on the treatment and activities of anti-Zionist orthodox Jewish groups, including attitudes toward and the treatment of members of Lev Tohor, was scarce among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. However, in a 23 December 2004 article, the Canadian Jewish News featured Rabbi Shlomo Erez Elbarnes, the founder of an organization called Hisachdus Hayereim (Union of the God-Fearing) that supports Arab rule over the state of Israel. The Canadian Jewish News reported that, in October 2003, Elbarnes was granted refugee status by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) and was subsequently the subject of a government request to review his case on the grounds that the IRB did not adequately examine internal flight alternatives within Israel (23 Dec. 2004). Elbarnes, an active anti-Zionist, claimed that he was unable to live in Israel for fear of persecution (Canadian Jewish News 23 Dec. 2004). At the time of the writing of the 23 December 2004 article, Elbarnes was living in Ste. Agathe, Quebec and was the leader of a small community of families (ibid.). A 13 August 2006 article in the Montreal Gazette corroborated that Elbarnes lived in Ste. Agathe but also noted that the group which he led had ties to an anti-Zionist organization called Neturei Karta. According to Web sites accessed by the Research Directorate in March and April 2004, which are no longer available online, Shlomo Helbrans (Elbarnes), founder of Hisachdus Hayereim (Union of the God-Fearing), was the leader of the Lev Tohor community in Ste. Agathe which families began joining in 2000 (Jewish Embassy n.d.a; ibid. n.d.b; ibid. n.d.c; ibid. n.d.d). No further information could be found about Lev Tohor among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

Established in Jerusalem in 1938, Neturei Karta (also Naturei Karta) (Jewish Virtual Library n.d.) is an anti-Zionist orthodox Jewish group (AP 2 Apr. 2007; Neturei Karta n.d.), whose name, according to its Web site, is Aramaic for "Guardians of the City" (ibid.; Jewish Virtual Library n.d.). Neturei Karta actively advocates the non-recognition of the state of Israel on the basis that its existence contravenes Jewish law (Neturei Karta n.d.). On its Web site, Neturei Karta states that its organization is "relatively small" and is composed of several thousand members (ibid.); the Montreal Gazette estimated that Neturei Karta has roughly one thousand supporters (13 Aug. 2006). Its members are reported to live in the United States, England, Israel (AP 2 Apr. 2007) and Austria (National Post 16 Dec. 2006).

In December 2006, Neturei Karta was the subject of significant controversy when a delegation of its representatives attended a Holocaust-denial conference in Iran and met with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (AP 27 Jan. 2007; see also Manchester Evening News 22 Dec. 2006; Reuters 25 Dec. 2006). The Associated Press (AP) reports that after the conference in Iran, members of Neturei Karta experienced harassment and were forbidden from entering synagogues (27 Jan. 2007). One member from England, Rabbi Ahron Cohen, required police protection upon his return from Iran (AP 27 Jan. 2007; Manchester Evening News 22 Dec. 2006). The New York Sun reported that the Deputy Prime Minister of Israel, Avigdor Lieberman, stated on 12 December 2006 that he would "deny Israeli citizenship to extreme anti-Zionist Orthodox Jewish groups, such as the Neturei Karta" (13 Dec. 2006). No further information could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate on the Deputy Prime Minister's statement.

Other Neturei Karta activities include a March 2006 visit by a number of its rabbis to the Palestinian parliament to pledge support for Hamas (AFP 21 Mar. 2006) and participation in a February 2005 conference in Beirut examining the right of return for Palestinian refugees (Daily Star 28 Feb. 2005). Associated Press (AP) states that Neturei Karta followers "heckle marchers in annual Israel Day parades in New York and regularly burn the Israeli flag" (2 Apr. 2007). An article in the Montreal Gazette reports that one Neturei Karta rabbi has "close ties to Palestinian leadership" and was allegedly on Yasser Arafat's payroll (13 Aug. 2006). According to the Jewish Virtual Library, Neturei Karta refrains as much as possible from availing itself of Israeli government services such as "courts, identity cards, schools, currency and public utilities" (n.d.).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Agence France Presse (AFP). 21 March 2006. "Anti-Zionist Rabbis Greet Hamas-Led Palestinian Parliament." (Factiva)

Associated Press (AP). 2 April 2007. "A Look at the Anti-Zionist Neturei Karta." (Factiva)
_____. 27 January 2007. "Ultra-Orthodox Sect Ostracized in NYC, Elsewhere." (Factiva)

The Canadian Jewish News [North York]. 23 December 2004. Janice Arnold. "Government Wants Anti-Zionist Rabbi's Immigration Case Reheard." [Accessed 14 May 2007]

The Daily Star [Beirut]. 28 February 2005. "Rabbis Visit Border with Israel; Jewish Religious Leaders Also Head to Former Prison." (Factiva)

Jewish Embassy. N.d.a. "Who We Are." [Accessed 31 Mar. 2004]
_____. N.d.b. "Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans: A Man of Faith, Conviction and Community." [Accessed 31 Mar. 2004]
_____. N.d.c. "Rimnov: Living Together with One Purpose – Keeping the Torah." [Accessed 31 Mar. 2004]
_____. N.d.d. "Contact." [Accessed 19 Apr. 2004]

Jewish Virtual Library. N.d. "Orthodox Anti-Zionism." [Accessed 14 May 2007]

Manchester Evening News. 22 December 2006. "Rabbi Barred in Holocaust Row." (Factiva)

The Montreal Gazette. 13 August 2006. Chaim Steinmetz. "Anti-Zionist Jews Steal Spotlight: Orthodox Fringe Group Neturei Karta are Enamoured with Israel's Enemies, and Good at Getting Media Attention." (Factiva)

The National Post [Toronto]. 16 December 2006. Yoni Goldstein. "Neturei Karta: Israel's Jewish Enemy." (Factiva)

Neturei Karta. N.d. "What is the Neturei Karta?" [Accessed 14 May 2007]

The New York Sun. 13 December 2006. Ira Stoll. "Israel's Lieberman Calls for Tougher Stance on Israeli Arabs." (Factiva)

Reuters. 25 December 2006. Jonathan Saul. "Anti-Israel "Rabbis" Face Fallout from Jewish World." (Factiva)

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: Attempts to contact two professors specializing in religion and politics in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem were unsuccessful.

Internet sites, including: The Association for One Democratic State in Palestine/Israel, Jews Not Zionist, Journal of Palestine Studies, Middle East Institute, Middle East Policy Council, Middle East Research and Information Project, Middle East Review of International Affairs [MERIA].

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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