Israel Must Deal with Its Ultra-Orthodox Insurrection. Right Now.
For 40 years, Israel has allowed a radical separatism, fed by political extortion and impunity, to flourish. That Haredi sedition, empowered by its blatant defiance of COVID rules, is now a danger to the Jewish state.
Israel is in the midst of a profound crisis, which threatens to tear its social fabric apart and throw its political system into turmoil.
The crisis playing out, resulting from the Haredi response to the coronavirus pandemic, pits the apparatus of the state against ultra-Orthodox grand rabbis and the politicians who profess to speak for the Haredi masses.
The tension between the Israeli government and Haredim has generated enormous attention in Israel, but it has been met mostly with silence from American Jewish leaders and organizations.
Perhaps this is not the kind of feel-good story that the U.S. Jewish establishment prefers. That’s unfortunate, given that the outcome of this crisis will determine the kind of Jewish state that Israel will be.
How serious is this crisis? Very serious.
Israeli COVID deaths continue to climb, and will soon reach 5,000. Despite an impressive vaccination campaign, the number of new infections in Israel continues to skyrocket. And Israelis realize that they are being held in a lethal hostage situation by one sector of the population, the ultra-Orthodox community, that has defied lockdown restrictions, literally breaking the law openly and brazenly, in a way that most Israelis have not — and with impunity.
Yes, not everyone in the Haredi world is breaking the rules. But a significant minority are. They are holding religious gatherings and attending weddings and funerals, as well as opening schools.
And when the police finally make more than just a symbolic effort to enforce the most recent lockdown, Haredi thugs rampage through the streets of Jerusalem and Bnei Brak, burning buses and attacking police. The result? Law enforcement is in full retreat.
As the Israel police spokesman said this week about closing down mass Haredi funerals: “I’m not going up against 20,000 people because I can’t do it.”
Non-Haredi Israelis, confined to their homes and wondering what happened to the mutual solidarity that they expect of their fellow citizens, are disgusted at the Haredi rule-breakers and their smug, irresponsible leaders.