Israelis blame ultra-Orthodox for coronavirus pandemic, categorical hatred

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Mar 2, 2021

Nothing ready Yakir Lance — an ultra-Orthodox fellow who lives within the coronary heart of Tel Aviv — for his encounter with a secular cab driver on the finish of January.

Lance ordered a cab by way of a taxi app, as he often does, and waited outdoors his home. When a taxi drove previous him with out stopping, Lance assumed that it was some form of mistake. Then he known as the motive force, who informed him immediately, “You are an ultra-Orthodox disease spreader; I can’t take you,” and sped away.

This occasion came about shortly after the Jan. 24 disturbances that erupted in Bnei Brak, Israel’s largest ultra-Orthodox metropolis; in the midst of the riots a bus was set on hearth and the motive force was rescued on the final minute. The violent occasions erupted towards the background of confrontations between policemen and ultra-Orthodox younger individuals, as authorities tried to implement the third lockdown in ultra-Orthodox cities. It was the low level of a violent week within the facilities of ultra-Orthodox cities and localities, and the media was full of studies on the sparring between police and the ultra-Orthodox.

The political responses weren’t lengthy in coming. The chairman of the Yisrael Beitenu social gathering, Avigdor Liberman, responded with sarcasm. “Who said the ultra-Orthodox don’t know how to fight?” requested Liberman, who has lengthy sought finish exemptions that permit the ultra-Orthodox to keep away from performing the nation’s necessary navy service.

 “The things we have been seeing over recent days remind us mainly of ‘Wild West’ movies or the Civil War in the States. Stop telling stories that we’re looking at fringe groups; we’re facing the most central currents of the ultra-Orthodox sector. The time has come to stop giving in to violence, and adopt real enforcement steps. So long as we don’t stop funding law-breaking educational institutions, or shutting them down, we’ll never end this chaos.”

For Liberman and for a whole lot of 1000’s of secular Jews, COVID-19 exemplifies the grim actuality of their lives: the ultra-Orthodox don’t serve within the military, they benefit from the fruits of inflated budgets, don’t take a big function within the labor market and, final however not least, don’t even permit Israeli society to battle the COVID-19 plague.

In common, the final days of January had been dreary and bleak. The month wound up being known as “Black January” as a result of record-breaking variety of coronavirus deaths. The media emphasised that whereas secular kids had been locked of their properties and couldn’t attend academic establishments, the ultra-Orthodox carried out themselves as an autonomous unit and opened their academic establishments regardless of the lockdown. Simultaneously, the Health Ministry reported a dramatic rise within the variety of these contaminated with COVID-19 throughout the ultra-Orthodox sector.

Back to Yakir Lance, who sensed firsthand the charged ambiance between the ultra-Orthodox and the secular. After he got here to his senses, he determined to take his story to the media.

In an interview with Ynet, he stated: “We have been living on Shenkin [Street] for 18 years, and never before have I encountered any kind of racism. You just can’t believe that it’s happening to you.” As a end result, the cab firm rushed to apologize, made it clear that it “dealt with the incident” and stated it advocates “values of equality and tolerance.”

It seems, nonetheless, that this was not an remoted story, solely that almost all of those different incidents by no means reached the media.

For instance, a rich secular businessman from Tel Aviv informed Al-Monitor this week, on situation of anonymity, “I was waiting for the elevator to my office, and an ultra-Orthodox person waited with me. When I saw that he intended to join me in the elevator, I told him, ‘Decide: it’s either me or you.’ He remained outside.’’ This businessman, who had voted for Blue and White three times, has decided to vote for Liberman this time.

Another example is that of a member of the Likud party central committee. This person, who spoke with Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, said he is angry at the way Benjamin Netanyahu is conducting himself vis-a-vis the ultra-Orthodox and claimed that ultra-Orthodox politicians are politically blackmailing the prime minister. The Likud member said he is even considering changing his allegiance to opposition leader Yair Lapid. “Netanyahu’s behavior infuriates me. The ultra-Orthodox are now paying the price for their COVID-19 behavior. I find myself admonishing ultra-Orthodox people on the street to wear masks. I’m also sick and tired of this,” the person stated.

On the opposite hand, there are a whole lot of 1000’s of ultra-Orthodox Jews who observe the rules; they don’t ship their kids to highschool and so they pray at home. And they, too, discover themselves targets of verbal hate assaults. In the eyes of many secular Jews, all ultra-Orthodox individuals look alike, making it straightforward to generalize.

On Feb. 26, Channel 12 printed an investigative report on this concern. The report examined who’s coming into Israel now that Israeli skies are closed. It needs to be defined that solely the Exceptions Committee can authorize arrivals to or departures from Israel, and solely in distinctive humanitarian circumstances. This report, which brought on a storm, claimed that the skies are closed to secular Jews however open to the ultra-Orthodox. In the report, we see ultra-Orthodox Jews descend from a flight that landed final week from New York (it’s straightforward to rely them due to their distinctive clothes). Some of them had been interviewed, and claimed they obtained particular therapy from the Exceptions Committee resulting from their political contacts.

Later on, info was launched displaying there had not been an ultra-Orthodox majority on the flight below dialogue. The reverse is true: The flights from Europe to Israel primarily carry secular Jews. But in such a tense ambiance, who cares about information?

Shortly after the expose grew to become public, Purim was celebrated in Jerusalem on Feb. 28. Under governmental directive, police closed all entrances into town to public transportation. The rationale was to forestall the ultra-Orthodox inhabitants from holding their conventional celebrations in huge occasion halls. But the ultra-Orthodox didn’t give in: Some rented non-public autos, whereas others moved on foot, pushing child carriages to Jerusalem. All this brought on huge gridlock — and anti-ultra-Orthodox sentiment returned.

There is little question that ultra-Orthodox habits in COVID-19 will probably be an element within the elections, and there’s even much less doubt that Liberman would be the major particular person to revenue from it. Ultra-Orthodox opinion leaders declare that every one that is wild incitement towards a whole public.

Right-wing Orthodox journalist Shimon Riklin tweeted Feb. 28, “In the old days in Europe, when a political party was losing ground, the method was: Blame the Jews, and save yourself. Now in Israel, the Jewish state, when political parties lose ground … the method is: Blame the ultra-Orthodox, and save yourselves. That is more than a little anti-Semitic, and very disgusting.”

Will Netanyahu lose the federal government due to the ultra-Orthodox? It is difficult to inform, at this stage. Obviously, Netanyahu can’t flip his again on 16 ultra-Orthodox, sure-fire Knesset seats. On the opposite hand, a big a part of anti-ultra-Orthodox sentiment comes from the anti-Netanyahu bloc. Therefore, for the second, the polls don’t present any dramatic modifications.