Damage or surrender? Viruses extend religious movement as an ultra-orthodox decryption

AP – When Israel entered its second nationwide coronavirus lockout in September, most of the country quickly rallied. But in some ultra-orthodox areas, synagogues were packed, mourners were throwing away funerals and COVID-19 cases were on the rise.

Nationwide safety regulations in ultra-orthodox areas reinforced a popular notion that the community prioritizes religion over science and cares little about the greater good. He has also inspired backers who have been threatening to run across Israeli society for years.

“Many Israelis understand that there is a huge challenge and we can not just pass up time and we hope that this issue will go away,” said Yohanan Plesner, president of the Israeli Institute for Democracy. , a think tank that studies Israeli society and politics.

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Over the years, the ultra-rectangular minority has influenced wider Israeli society, using the status of king in parliament to secure generous budgets and benefits for its people and build revenge among the masses.

Rabbi Elimelech Biderman and ultra-orthodox praying for forgiveness (Selihot) at the burial site of Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai in Meron, northern Israel, September 12, 2020 (David Cohen / Flash90)

The events of 2020 brought a long simmering tension to a boil. Medical experts believe that ultra-orthodox has accounted for about a third of the country’s coronavirus cases, despite making up only 12% of the population.

Avraham Rubenstein, the supreme ruler of the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak, says the uproar is unfair. Rubenstein has been widely praised for overseeing a successful effort to control one of the worst coronavirus events in Israel in just a few weeks. He believes the anger towards the ultra-orthodox is fueled by ignorance, animosity and hostile coverage in the media.

Avraham Rubenstein, supreme ruler of Bnei Brak, arrives for a meeting of the Council Degel Hatorah of Torah sages, December 4, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel / Flash90)

“The creator of the universe,” he admitted. “We believe. But when you go outside in Bnei Brak, the first thing you see is people wearing a mask and keeping their pace. ”

Rubenstein says the breakers are a tiny percentage of the ultra-orthodox community and that the high rates of disease are due to congested conditions in his city. Ultra-Orthodox arrives living in some of the poorest cities in Israel. It is common for families of eight or 10 people to gather in small flats.

Early in the coronavirus crisis, Israel was seen as a model of success. The country moved swiftly last spring to seal its borders and prevent a lockout that appeared to have brought the virus under control. But the reopening of the economy was severely mismanaged, and the virus returned swiftly.

Israeli police arrest ultra-orthodox man at protest against government measures to halt the spread of the virus, in the neighborhood of Mea Shearim in Jerusalem, March 30, 2020. (Photo AP / Mahmoud Illean )

Meanwhile, the West Bank and Gaza Strip are dealing with their own crises.

With a poorer population and a much more advanced medical system, the Palestinian Authority on the West Bank has often implemented lock-in measures, destroying an already weak economy.

The Gaza Strip, controlled by Hamas, blocked by an Israeli-Egyptian trade embargo, did not report a single case of coronavirus that was spread by the community until August. But the numbers have been spinning since then, raising fears that his health system could collapse.

By mid-December, Israel reported 3,749 cases per 100,000 population. In the West Bank, there were 2,798 cases per 100,000 people; in Gaza, 1,327, according to the World Health Organization.

In Israel, the ultra-Orthodox were not the only ones struggling. Israel’s Arab minority also has a high infection rate, largely due to its popular practice of holding large weddings. Young Israelis, Jewish and Arab, came to beaches and parties. And many middle-class Israelis have suffered in major demonstrations against Netanyahu as the economy has suffered and unemployment has gone up.

Protesters against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, on December 05, 2020 (Olivier Fitoussi / Flash90)

Rubenstein gained a reputation for bringing in a retired army general to manage the crisis last spring. His city operates several programs to help sick people and their families and maintains a dressing room that keeps tabs close to disease. He has found hundreds of volunteers who have recovered from COVID-19, believing they are no longer infectious, to help older residents. Many people worship outside, and synagogues throughout the city have erected plastic sheets to keep attendants safe from each other.

Rubenstein says Israelis need to understand that the ultra-orthodox, who bypass computers and the internet and regard essential religious study as “water and oxygen.” Their schools have remained open and other children exploring at a distance. He says that they must be allowed to manage things in their own way, but that does not mean that people want to be sick or that they do not see themselves as proud Israelis.

“We are an unstable part of the country,” he said.

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