Ultra-Orthodox Rabbis Threaten “Drastic Steps” If Corona Limits Aren’t Eased April 24, 2020

Ultra-Orthodox Rabbis Threaten “Drastic Steps” If Corona Limits Aren’t Eased

Wherever ultra-Orthodox Jews live and pray together, COVID-19 seems to be striking hard. We’ve seen it in Kiryas Joel. Brooklyn. Bnei Brak.

The pattern holds in Israel, even beyond the Bnei Brak outbreak that we previously wrote about here.

From the Times of Israel:

Israel’s ultra-Orthodox community continues to be disproportionately affected by the coronavirus epidemic, epidemiological data released by the Health Ministry on Thursday showed.

The cities of Beit Shemesh, Elad and Modiin Illit [combined population 241,000, TF] each have more active cases than all of Tel Aviv, the country’s second-largest population center [pop. 450,000].

Elad and Modiin Illit are both predominantly ultra-Orthodox while Beit Shemesh has a large plurality of ultra-Orthodox residents.

We know where this disproportionality comes from. It’s a dangerous cocktail of five things:

• People living in close quarters (and typically in relative poverty);
• a tendency to turn away from worldly matters, study holy texts for answers, and trust in Yahweh;
• an aversion to technology (like the Internet) and science;
• the aggressive social demand to conform to in-bubble beliefs and exclude outside perspectives; and
• a fealty to intellectually limited but influential old men — the kind who won’t let a little virus get in the way of religious schooling and communal worship.

Resumes the paper:

Some members of extremist sects have continued to ignore health regulations, and have clashed with security forces attempting to enforce rules…

Many in the… community believe that Torah study has ontological significance beyond the mere attainment of knowledge and that it serves to protect the larger community from harm.

Maybe they should study harder, for even more protection? I mean, the Haredi only make up eight percent of the Israeli population, but the Times reports that last month, half of the country’s coronavirus patients being treated in hospitals were ultra-Orthodox.

Now, just as the curve is finally beginning to flatten, conservative rabbis are shedding what little humility had been forced upon them by the reality of their people dying. Referring to themselves as “the Great Torah sages” (!), religious kingpins Chaim Kanievsky and Gershon Edelstein released a joint statement earlier this week, in which…

… they warned that if the government failed to soon find a way to relax coronavirus restrictions and reopen yeshivas, they would consider taking “drastic steps.”

Last month, after Kanievsky decreed that (I kid you not) “canceling Torah study is more dangerous than the coronavirus,” footage was released of the doddering 92-year-old rebbe that revealed that

… he did not completely understand the magnitude of his decision, with his grandson having to explain what the coronavirus was in the first place.

These are the leaders who hold the fate — the lives — of thousands of people in their hands, both within and outside of their communities.

Religion really does poison everything.

(Image via Shutterstock)


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