Haredim have been social distancing since Israel was founded, refusing to take part in the social, cultural and educational life of the rest of the country, isolating into separate communities with their own institutions and own way of life. For the most part, Israelis have allowed them to get away with it, the political system providing just enough corruption and bribery to make it worthwhile for our leaders to cave to their demands.
If nothing else, the current catastrophe has brought home to us in the strongest terms possible that we as a country can no longer allow fellow citizens, be they haredi Jews or Arabs, to cut themselves off and behave as a sovereign state within a state.
The cult-like behavior of some – certainly not all – haredim has ruined Israel’s admirable efforts to contain the horrific death and destruction spread by the COVID-19. Jerusalem, my city, where I have lived for almost fifty years, is now an epicenter of this plague, with numbers of the infected skyrocketing. Most of the ill are from Meah Shearim and other haredi strongholds, where people don’t have smartphones, don’t watch television, or read newspapers, and continued business as usual even as the rest of the country was huddled behind closed doors doing their shopping online. It is no wonder that scarce hospital beds are filling up with infected haredim, and doctors are now going to have send the rest of the patients (no matter their illness) back home, and then risk their lives to save those who could only be bothered to distance themselves from their obligations and care for others in Israel.
And for those out there who really think that those involved (don’t pretend you don’t know who they are) are such GOOD PEOPLE; who show SUCH CHESED, and have NUMEROUS FREE LOAN FUNDS, and CARE FOR EACH OTHER, let me say this: yes, exactly. They care FOR EACH OTHER. As for outsiders not inside their little cults, led by their cult leaders who have nothing but contempt for the Torah, as well as for the rest of us, they couldn’t care less, and any criticism is always met with “haredi-bashing incitement” or “but in Tel Aviv people were on the beach too.”
Yes, secular idiots were on the beach in Tel Aviv. But they stopped and Tel Aviv isn’t the center of the outbreak. Bnai Brak and Jerusalem are. Because haredim STILL HAVEN’T STOPPED. The police now have to risk their lives to haul them out of their synagogues and yeshivot to take them to jail and isolation centers, before shipping them off to emergency rooms, where they will likely take up the beds for those who got ill even while trying their best. And their lives will be saved by people who got an education and did their army service.
Any one of us expressing these feelings is going to be told we are contemptible. That we hate haredim. Many of the people who will be most furious will tell us that they are haredi doctors and lawyers and psychologists and nurses… But listen to me. So what? Do you not live next door to such people in your haredi neighborhoods? Have you not sat in silence as they behaved with disgusting regularity in outrageous and insulting ways to the rest of the country, whether breaking the silence for honoring Israel’s fallen, or pelting Magen Adom workers with rocks? Do you not vote for the same parties as they do, perpetuating this injustice? So spare me. Honestly, you are the ones who are going to suffer the most because your children play with theirs, and your homes border theirs. You have more to lose than any of us, so stop defending them.
As for hatred, I fully admit those feelings towards anyone that in a time of such a crisis shows zero consideration for anyone else. That includes haredim, Arabs, spring-breakers. And all other Covidiots.
So, please save your nasty letters and emails, they don’t impress me. Here, I’ll say it for you: Of course, there are many, many haredim as well as Arabs who have been following the rules and trying to stay healthy and who are just as threatened as the rest of us by those selfish, arrogant, ignorant morons among us who refuse to stay put behind closed doors.
But so what? They became selfish, arrogant, ignorant morons because no one in our modern country has seen fit to insist that they get an education, participate in the economic and social life of the country, pay their taxes, go to the army, pass matriculation exams – accepting the narrative that these people are so “holy,” they need special consideration; because they are so much holier than the rest of us, who keep the laws of the Torah and actually work six days a week before resting on the seventh. Who actually risk our own lives and the lives of our drafted sons, daughters and grandchildren to protect our borders, instead of pretending God designated them to be the new tribe of Levi. Who actually work at an education and a profession that can contribute to the life of the country we hold so dear, the miracle of Israel.
The time is long past for the citizens and the leaders of Israel to demand equal obligations from all its citizens to become self-supporting, law abiding, educated members of our society who participate equally and contribute equally to our economic and security needs; who celebrate national holidays, and honor national priorities.
Those among us with separate priorities, who declare themselves unable or unwilling to do so, should be encouraged to find another place on the planet to grace with their unique outlook.