IDF soldier and scion of anti-Zionist Satmar dynasty joins ‘Mislaibeled’ podcast for wide-ranging conversation

Chaim Meisels, the great-grandson of the previous Satmar rebbe, spoke to podcast host Laibel Weiner about joining the IDF, fighting in Gaza post-Oct. 7, Israeli politics, and more

Screenshot of Meisels’s ‘Mislaibeled’ interview on Youtube

Apr 2, 2024 2:40 PM


In 2014, Chaim Meisels, a recent Satmar yeshiva student and a great-grandson of the previous grand rabbi of Satmar, Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum, made headlines when he enlisted in the Israeli Defense Forces, despite being a scion of the famously anti-Zionist Hasidic dynasty.

This week, after serving about 111 days in Gaza, Meisels appeared on the Mislaibeled podcast, a show hosted by Laibel Weiner and a co-host and which caters to a broad spectrum of the Jewish world. Over the course of the discussion, Meisels talked about his upbringing, his time in the IDF, Oct. 7, and many other topics.

Meisels, 30, said he learned about the Oct. 7 attacks from a non-Jewish Hatzalah employee during the Simchat Torah holiday, which he was spending with his wife’s family in the Hasidic village of New Square. He said he was initially in disbelief, but his “gut” told him to go home and find out.

“I turned on my phone,” he said, “and I have hundreds of messages” from members of his unit as well as superior officers. “Where are you? We’re at war. You’ve got to come right now.” He said he looked to his wife: “I think I gotta go, and she’s, like, yeah, this is real.”

Now a captain in the IDF, Meisels described witnessing “open miracles” in which his life was saved multiple times, which he attributed to his friends’ prayers.

“We had quite a few insane stories,” Meisels told the hosts. He recounted one incident in which a soldier in Meisels’s unit, determined to pray the afternoon Mincha prayer, turned around to see if the sun was going down, and spotted a Hamas member with an RPG aimed at their battalion, allowing them to take quick action against the potential attack.

Asked for his opinion on drafting Haredi yeshiva students, currently the subject of heated debate in Israel, Meisels said that despite his own choice to enlist, he felt the efforts to draft Haredim were political rather than a military necessity. He also argued that a law to draft Haredim would be counterproductive: “Once you start saying ‘you must,’” Meisels said, a lot fewer would be willing. But “when you say, ‘Hey, we need your help,’ a lot more guys will join.”

He also cited the fact that Haredim already volunteer for Hatzalah and Zaka in significant numbers, and whose services are vital during wartime. “I am not saying Haredim should not contribute,” he said. “I think they should. But there’s a lot of ways” to help.

Meisels also shared his opinion on Bibi Netanyahu (he thinks he should go), and also argued that Israel has many highly competent potential leaders, but who are prevented from political leadership by career politicians like Netanyahu. He mentioned Nir Barakat, a businessman and former mayor of Jerusalem, as one example.

While Meisels does not consider himself a Satmar Hasid these days, saying “that lifestyle didn’t work for me” for various reasons, he still has fond feelings toward Satmar, he said.

In a 2018 interview with Arutz Sheva, a right-wing Israeli news channel, Meisels said he grew interested in enlisting in the IDF after reading about World War II and then visiting Israel. “It was amazing, just to see that it was a Jewish state.” He said he was mesmerized by the sight of Jews living in their own homeland, and he “had a very inner feeling that I have to be a part of it, and do something.”