Sima Kadmon
Sima Kadmon
Photo: Avigail Uzi
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu receiving the first coronavirus vaccine administered in Israel

Israelis are dying but the ultra-Orthodox keep dancing

Opinion: Secular citizens won't forget huge Haredi weddings while they were fined for removing their masks in public, Haredi children at illegally open schools while they stayed home with children sick of remote learning, all thanks to the government

Sima Kadmon |
Published: 01.22.21 , 13:19
In a case of brass, glass and polished wood, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proudly displays the syringe with which he received Israel's first dose of the coronavirus inoculation a month ago, as if it were a bullet prised from his body in the thick of battle.
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  • Whenever anyone visits his office, Netanyahu gleefully points to the case and the plaque at the bottom, on which he has had engraved the same words he uttered while receiving the vaccine on live television: “One small jab for man and one giant leap for all our health.”
    6 צפייה בגלריה
    בנימין נתניהו
    בנימין נתניהו
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu receiving the first coronavirus vaccine administered in Israel
    (Photo; GPO)
    As it turns out, Netanyahu likes to quote himself - as if his words were originally declaimed by some world-famous visionary.
    His unmerited sense of superiority is astonishing. Does he believe he himself invented the serum, instead of being one of millions to simply receive it?
    How tasteless this display is when Israel just passed 4,000 COVID-related fatalities and its hospitals are collapsing under the weight of surging coronavirus cases.
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    Benjamin Netanyahu showing off the syringe with which he became the first Israeli to receive the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine
    Benjamin Netanyahu showing off the syringe with which he became the first Israeli to receive the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine
    Benjamin Netanyahu showing off the syringe with which he became the first Israeli to receive the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine
    (Photo: Screenshot)
    Netanyahu would have worn that damned syringe around his neck all the way to Election Day on March 23, hoping that we would only remember the vaccines and not his government's endless oversights and poor management of the pandemic.
    More so than any other conflict, the war against the coronavirus served to deepen the gap between Israel’s secular and ultra-Orthodox populations.
    It is no longer merely the question of why secular Israelis need to carry the Haredi population who do not work, do not pay taxes and vehemently refuse to enlist in the military.
    Now the questions are much harsher and accusatory.
    We will remember the images of huge Haredi weddings in Bnei Brak while people in secular cities were fined for even daring to take off their masks on the street.
    We will remember Haredi children walking to schools operating illegally while secular parents were forced to stay home with children who had long since lost patience with remote studies.
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    חתונת ענק בבני ברק בניגוד להנחיות
    חתונת ענק בבני ברק בניגוד להנחיות
    Hundreds attend an ultra-Orthodox wedding in Bnei Brak in breach of coronavirus health regulations
    We will not so easily forget these images of life coming to a standstill in cities where the infection rate was lowest while it continued uninterrupted in ultra-Orthodox areas, which have by far the highest the infection rates.
    The Haredi population, egged on by their leaders, have endangered the lives of countless people - including pregnant women and the elderly - and may have even contributed to national COVID death toll while almost single-handedly bringing the country’s health system to its knees.
    This is because Haredi leaders think the rules don't apply to them and their followers. One example of this is the behavior of the grandson and right hand of renowned Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, who took his sweet time to shut Haredi schools despite the surge in infections and Netanyahu's own pleas.
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    יש ניידת אבל אין אכיפה: תלמידות נוסעות ללימודים בבית ספר בבית שמש בזמן הסגר
    יש ניידת אבל אין אכיפה: תלמידות נוסעות ללימודים בבית ספר בבית שמש בזמן הסגר
    Children arrive at a Haredi school in Beit Shemesh that was open in contravention of health regulations
    (Photo: Gilad Cohen)
    It seems that 4,000 dead Israelis are not enough to convince Haredi leaders to adhere to pikuach nefesh - the Jewish principle that preserving human life overrides any other religious regulations.
    Another failure is the management of Ben-Gurion Airport during the crisis. It seems as if Netanyahu’s bloated, self-indulgent government has made every mistake imaginable since March 29, when then-defense minister Naftali Bennett proffered a simple plan that would prevent the virus from being introduced into Israel via its main port of entry.
    Tragically for us, Bennett’s plan to test everyone entering and leaving the country has been systematically ignored, for it was conceived by Netanyahu’s political rival and as long as he is in charge, no one else can receive any credit for handling the pandemic.
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    ישיבת פוניבז' הפתוחה
    ישיבת פוניבז' הפתוחה
    The Ponevezh Yeshiva in Bnei Brak operating in violation of health regulations
    (Photo: Shaul Golan)
    Over the past 10 months, the government has imposed three nationwide closures on us all - trampling businesses and decimating the school year for millions of students.
    And now, in the midst of the third national closure, the government is letting thousands of Israelis return from abroad without so much as a coronavirus test at the arrivals gate.
    The members of the government meantime are busy doing their own thing.
    Netanyahu is showing off his precious syringe and Transportation Minister Miri Regev is celebrating birthdays with the staff in her office.
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    חגיגות יום ההולדת בלשכתה של מירי רגב
    חגיגות יום ההולדת בלשכתה של מירי רגב
    Transportation Minister Miri Regev (top of table) attends a mask-free, non-socially distanced birthday party for a member of her staff during lockdown
    (Photo: Twitter)
    Health Minister Yuli Edelstein is busy blaming the attorney general's office for opposing mandatory tests for all returning Israelis, but it says it was never asked for legal advice on the issue.
    It later emerged that the Health Ministry had indeed sought legal advice on mandatory tests - on December 21, nine whole months after the beginning of the crisis. Besides, an entire month has passed since then and the tests have yet to be implemented.
    Netanyahu, who can easily pass a bill to change Israel’s basic laws to suit his needs, stumbles and falls when it comes to dealing with the public’s health.
    So keep he can keep his showmanship, because we are the ones paying for the government’s failures during this awful crisis.
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