NETUREI KARTA, group of ultra-religious extremists, mainly in Jerusalem, who regard the establishment of a secular Jewish state in Ereẓ Israel as a sin and a denial of God, and therefore do not recognize the State of Israel. Their name, which is Aramaic for "guardians of the City," derives from a passage in the Jerusalem Talmud (Ḥag. 76:3) stating that religious scholars are the guardians and defenders of the city. Most of them come from the old yishuv, but they have been joined by some immigrants from Hungary, disciples of R. Joel *Teitelbaum of Satmar.

Neturei Karta broke away from *Agudat Israel in 1935, when the latter attempted to restrain extremist demands for an independent ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem community completely separate from the rest of the "Zionist" community. The group first adopted the name Ḥevrat ha-Ḥayyim, after R. Joseph Ḥayyim *Sonnenfeld. It aimed at creating "a circle free from the influence of the contemporary spirit and its fallacious opinions," and a condition of membership was "the education of sons and daughters in the traditional Jewish manner, without any change (girls' schools which teach Hebrew do not provide education in the traditional Jewish manner)." The last phrase alluded to Agudat Israel's Bet Ya'akov girls' schools, where the language of instruction is Hebrew. The name Neturei Karta was first used in 1938 by a group of youths, including members of Ḥevrat ha-Ḥayyim, who violently opposed the Jewish community's levying of the voluntary defense tax, kofer ha-yishuv.

During World War II, Neturei Karta came out in opposition to Agudat Israel, when it cooperated more closely with the Jewish community and the *Jewish Agency, and attacked it in Ha-Ḥomah, a newspaper which began to appear in 1944. In 1945, at the elections to the Orthodox Community Committee (Va'ad ha-Edah ha-Ḥaredit), Neturei Karta and its sympathizers gained control; one of their first acts was to exclude from membership anyone educating his daughters at a Bet Ya'akov school. During the War of Independence, Neturei Karta opposed the creation of a Jewish state and Israel's control of Jerusalem, and tried to bring about the internationalization of the city.

The most consistent members refuse to accept an Israel identity card, to recognize the competence of Israel courts, and to vote in municipal or general elections. Although they consist of only a few dozen families – concentrated in the Me'ah She'arim quarter of Jerusalem and in Bene Berak – they gained some support in wider Orthodox circles by creating periodic religious controversies, such as their demonstrations against Sabbath violation and mixed bathing. In 1966 Neturei Karta split, following the marriage of their leader R. Amram *Blau to a convert, Ruth Ben-David. Members of Neturei Karta derive their livelihood mostly from small trade and contributions from abroad, notably from disciples of the Satmar rabbi in the United States. The Neturei Karta continued its spirited anti-Israel activities into the 21st century, demonstrating against Zionist organizations at every opportunity and agitating for the return of the Land of Israel to the Palestinians.


Ha-Edah ha-Ḥaredit, Keẓ ha-Ma'arakhah (1964); Agudat Israel, Mi Sam Kez la-Ma'arakhah (1964). WEBSITE:

[Menachem Friedman]

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.