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The Social Distancing Has to Stop

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.”

Police arrest a haredi defying the social distancing orders.

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.

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34 comments on “The Social Distancing Has to Stop”

  1. Emuna

    Naomi Regan spreads hatred against the one of the groups which keeps commandments and practices Judaism in the most pure and sincere way. I read many of her books and I threw out all of them. G-d gave her a talent to write and she chose to use it in a disgusing way. Shame on you, Naomi!

    • Larry Light

      Emuna – This is not about “keeping commandments and practicing Judaism in the most pure and sincere way”. This is about a killer virus that doesn’t know the religious practices of the person it infects. It works better where there is lack of social distancing so Haredim who have large families living in close proximity and davening or studying in close proximity are the one’s at highest risk. It has a predilection for those whose socioeconomic circumstances are challenged which unfortunately fits the Haredi community.
      Why would Hashem ‘send’ a virus to attack the very people who practice Judaism in the most pure and sincere way and avoid the more secular community?

    • Rabbi Joe

      Emuna, so your idea of practicing Judaism in a pure way includes endangering the lives of others. I guess that says a lot about you and your so-called Pure Jewish values.

  2. Chana

    Is this the time to be writing something like this whether it’s true or not? We are going through something that we couldn’t imagine in our wildest dreams. I would think now is the time to increase our ahavas yisroel and not take to the media to berate, accuse and belittle other Jews.
    Save it for when 1000’s aren’t dying or better yet, don’t say it at all.

    • Surak

      Yashar ko’ach. The comments on this thread do nothing to increase ach’duth (unity).

    • Rabbi Joe from Jerusalem

      Haredim wail about the lack of unity only when they get caught doing something outrageous, like endangering the lives of everybody else (which is what they’re doing now), but in normal times they’re quite happy to separate themselves from the Jewish people, take their money while giving nothing in return, make infinitesimal contributions while demanding infinite amounts of money, abusing women in their rabbinical courts, and calling anybody who doesn’t live exactly like them “Nazi” and throwing rocks at ambulances. But anyone who raises his or her voice in protest is vilified as an antiSemite.

  3. jonathan

    Once again the parasites of the orthodox haredi community disobey the law. This time they not only cost us taxpayers financially, they endanger our lives.
    It’s high time that the State of Israel stops supporting them.

    • Surak

      I am curious – do you refer to African immigrants as “parasites”? Do you refer to Arabs as “parasites”? Is this venomous dehumanizing term reserved only for your fellow Jews?

      • Deborah

        טפילים זה
        טפילים וזה התיאור שמתאים להם

  4. Shmuel Goldstein

    If you want everybody to take part in the country, it’s also time to require the Arab community to do national service, and the very least. And the haredim as well.
    The problem is the history of anti-Torah sentiments and actions on the part of the secular powers that be. It created a very very very big distrust on the part of the haredi public, and we are seeing this result now. Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind.

    • jonathan

      I’m replying to Surak:
      No, I only refer to parasites as people who refuse to share in defending our country; to people who refuse to work but demand financial support; to people who pay no income tax but suck money from the government; to people who enjoy police and military protection but spit on soldiers and police and refer to them as “nazis”; to people who demand social welfare while not supporting the country; to people who use the country’s medical services as their right; and to the scum of the earth.
      Why do you stay anonymous Surak? Ashamed, embarrassed, afraid?

      • Surak

        I’m curious, “jonathan”. There are other anonymous posters on this thread; why do you hate me so virulently? Why not the others? What did I do to you? What would I have to be ashamed of? Why don’t you post your own full name? Ashamed, embarrassed, afraid?

        For the record, I am not frum/chareidi. As my original post indicates, I am barely even borderline Modern Orthodox. I have this crazy idea that all Jews should be able to get along. I make an exception for haters such as yourself. If Mrs. Ragen wanted to expose the reason for the Jews’ continued exile and troubles, baseless hatred – and it is truly baseless in this case – she did an outstanding job.

        I am going to opt out of receiving more comments on this extremely ugly thread and further communications from this website. Well done, Mrs. Ragen.

    • Rabbi Joe from Jerusalem

      Shmuel, the reason the haredim are so distrustful of the rest of us is that they have never rid themselves of the galut mentality of being persecuted by the rest of the world, to the point where they have to feel persecuted to feel alive. Here in Israel they’re not persecuted, in fact money and outsized privileges are showered upon them from all sides while nothing is demanded in return. But if they would give up the feeling of being persecuted, they would have to give up their resistance to melting in to the society around them, which was perfectly justified when they were in Poland but has zero justification today. They desperately NEED to be persecuted, it’s their raison d’etre, so they interpret every word of criticism as antisemitism. If they’re set free from persecution, they would be free, and they don’t want to be free. It’s against their religion.

  5. Naomi R.

    Naomi. I am glad you addressed this issue. We have it here in the US although not in the magnitude of Israel. It truly is a disgrace and frankly a chilul Hashem, but I have been advised by friends and relatives not to talk about it. The reason, more hatred. I do admit that I seethe with anger when I witness these actions.

    • Alex

      These Haredim may outsmart us all. Coronavirus is mostly not dangerous to healthy individuals. So if they get sick they will build the herd immunity and eventually will protect themselves and the elderly from the virus. Of course, if they do not isolate the immunodeficient folks then they are going to lose a lot of sick people. So, I hope that they quarantine them for now.
      Unrelated to this, I see that the left is destroying Israel. And the right is not able to have the majority government that will curtail the power of the dictatorial Supreme Court. The only hope that Haredim population (voters) will outgrow the left wingers and support the right camp to promote the Zionist agenda. They have been supporting the right camp agenda probably out of the necessity to get something for themselves but this is the price you have to pay to counter the destructive stupidity of the left.

    • Jonathan

      Surak asked me a question, got my reply, but didn’t like it. So s/he opts out. The “ostrich option”: what you don’t know doesn’t matter. Censor the truth, shoot the messenger, do anything to avoid facing the facts.
      My satisfaction is knowing that as s/he cannot respond to me, s/he chose instead to hurl insults and ‘throw stones’ – sure sign that I am right.

  6. Dallas Reader

    Great editorial, Naomi! I would love to think things will change, in light of this terrible crisis, but nope, I don’t see it happening. No incentive for Haredim to make any changes or feel the need to. Too much hubris, from what I can see. But I hope you and yours remain safe.

  7. Mickey Harel

    What makes Naomi’s article racist and anti-semitic is the generalizations about Haradim as if they were a single entity. In my experience as a psychologist working in Haredi communities for more than thirty years I know that they are a very diverse groups Lumping everyone together only serves to justify your hate. All haters speak in generalizations.

    • Larry Light

      Mickey. Writing that “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” is not racist or anti-Semitic.
      Writing that “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” is not generalising about all Haredim.
      Writing “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.” is I believe justified “hatred” to all such inconsiderates.

      • Dallas Reader

        Larry, great points. Your thoughtful and intelligent response will be ignored because you pointed out the flaw in Mickey’s comments.

    • Shmuel Goldstein

      Quite true. Sorry, Naomi, you are close, but try again.

  8. Stevo

    I’ll admit right away that I’m Jewish and an atheist. Nonetheless, someone with a wicked, irreverent humor could say that perhaps COVID-19 is god’s way of getting rid of those disgusting holier than you non-compliant Haredim!

  9. Gig Berkowitz

    In a free society, speaking up about a social injustice is considered free speech. And, sometimes it hurts both the intended people and the bystander but, it’s still speech. My grandson lives in Israel and is a Lt. in the IDF. I’ve watched him change over the years and I’m certain that his tolerance level with those who do not support the IDF, whether Jew or Arab, is diminishing. And, so is Naomi’s tolerance of the haredi wearing down. And it’s only taken 50 years! As an outsider, a Jew, I was recently outraged when I read where 65 ultra-religious Jews flew in to Ben Gurion from New York. As you can see, it’s not about YOU; it’s all about Them. Naomi is right; they’re not better even though they think so. I agree that Israel needs to take a stand as this is not about religion or it’s beliefs, it’s about people caring for one-another.

  10. Irving Green

    The Haredim keep Bibi in power — they can do no wrong !! (that he won’t suffer in order to stay in power).
    What ever happened to the couple of promises about the Wall?

  11. Glenda Urmacher

    I really feel so sorry for the ultra orthodox community.
    They don’t realize what they are doing to their children.
    They are putting their religious interpretations
    and practices above and beyond the lives of their children, wives, mothers and sisters.
    Our G-d has never asked us to destroy our own flesh and blood in adherence to our religious laws and writings, and that is exactly what they are doing.
    Not all, but enough to cause this virus to have a field day in their communities.
    My prayers and good wishes go out to all men and womenkind among my people Israel and the global communities.

  12. Chanie

    I consider myself Charedi. I live in the US and visit Israel almost yearly. I will not shop in or near Mea Shearim because of their disrespect for the Israeli Army. One thing these people have a knowledge of is money. If the tourists stop shopping in these places they will feel it.

  13. Tay Green

    Sorry Shelley it would be nice if the Haredi unified with their countrymen and not put everyone’s life at risk. The Ten Commandments say Thou shall not kill, time for the Haredi to practice what they preach.

  14. Shelley Winkler

    Sorry Naomi but this is boldfaced anti semitism. in the face of an international disaster it would have been nice to see you unify with all your countrymen. Hate and slander have no place in these times. Just keep it to yourself.

    • Rabbi Fleishig

      Shelley, in your upside down way of thinking, the person complaining about the haredim putting everybody’s life at risk is guilty of antisemitism, but the people putting everyone else’s life at risk are above criticism.

      • Lawrence

        Shelley–It is anti-Semitic for individuals to harm, sicken, or kill Jews. It is anti-Semitic to support individuals who by their actions would harm, kill, or sicken Jews. By supporting those individuals and criticizing Naomi, you are the anti-Semite. Shame on you!

  15. Elliott Drew

    Choose life, Moses tells us….your critical analysis of Naiomi…indicates that you need to get a life…..covidiot!

  16. Surak

    I agonize about the polarization of the Jewish community in Israel and in America. It seems that both ends of the spectrum (secular and chareidi) are becoming more extreme in their marginalization of their opposites. (Perhaps they are more similar than they think, psychologically.)

    I have been writing a book proposing that the people Israel (in the land or in exile) make a return to what I call Torah Judaism. This is essentially sh’mirath mitz’voth, as Mrs. Ragen alluded to in this article: keeping the Torah commandments. The Oral Law is needed to explain many, if not most, of the commandments, when it comes to halakhah from Moses at Sinai. Anything beyond that – fences, or customs – should be optional. Any individual may observe as many fences or customs as s/he chooses, but may not impose them upon the community. This includes the avoidance of legumes on Pesach, second days of festivals, and so on. The result is somewhere in between Modern Orthodox (dati l’umi), Traditional (masorti), and Karaite, while being none of the above; keeping core Oral Law while making fences and customs optional.

    I think Rabbi Hillel was the one who said “Do not separate yourself from the community.” Those who study his words should take them to heart and practice them. The problem is not all chareidim, but it is some, together with their secular counterparts who resent learning Jewish history and religion. There is a legitimate place to meet in the middle.

  17. Glenda Urmacher

    I agree with you, that within your keeping of your religious views, just as long as they don’t harm the greater
    society, that you ask to support you, protect you, feed and shelter you.
    Religion MUST be removed from governmental and societal agencies, so that ALL benefit, and no one entity has control, while they have a conflict of interest.
    In Israel, there can not be a ‘they and an us.”

  18. Shimon

    I have enjoyed your comments and writings over the years. But noticed on occasion a measure of intolerance towards the haredim and their communities. Even though you have lived in contact with them, I feel that this post shows an inability to understand the terrible pressures put on the haredi community, which in turn pushes them to ‘social distancing’ in the hope of preserving their customs and values.

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