Ben-Dror Yemini
Ben-Dror Yemini
Haredi rioters clash with police in Jerusalem

Israel needs to wake up to Haredi extortion

Opinion: The flagrant violation of coronavirus rules meant to keep us all safe is the latest in a long line of insults by one entitled sector of Israeli society that benefits disproportionately from state assistance - and our leaders must put an end to it

Ben-Dror Yemini |
Published: 10.08.20 , 23:33
These are days of mutiny. The Haredi public has announced it is divorcing the State of Israel.
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  • Not that the relationship was in such a great state anyway, but we are now in the midst of a rebellion that is endangering the nation.
    Ultra-Orthhodox clash with police in Jerusalem
    (Police Spokesperson)
    It is true that not every member of the ultra-Orthodox community is on board. The leaders of the Shas party and most likely their constituents are not part of the revolt. But those who are part of it are harming not only themselves but us all.
    אכיפת המשטרה בזמן ההפגנה בירושלים אשר גרמה לעימותים עם מפגינים ויידוי אבניםאכיפת המשטרה בזמן ההפגנה בירושלים אשר גרמה לעימותים עם מפגינים ויידוי אבנים
    Haredi rioters clash with police in Jerusalem
    (Photo: Police Spokesperson)
    A friend told me she hated "them," but quickly retracted it and I am glad she did. But the feelings of disgust for the ultra-Orthodox members of the population have reached new heights.
    We do not need more hate or disgust. We need a wake up call and a reality check.
    The secular public is already critical of the fact that Haredi Israelis evade compulsory military service and that government funds flow to Haredi families and perpetuate their low participation in the workforce.
    Israelis are also critical of the Haredi education system that refuses to include the study of mathematics, the sciences and other core subjects in their curriculum – educating generations to be unprepared for modern employment.
    This criticism is compounded by the health crisis and the responsibility placed on the Haredi community for worsening it.
    The number of ultra-Orthodox Israelis infected by COVID-19 is five times greater than among the general public and seven times greater than in the Arab sector.
    Not all of those infected by the virus will end up in hospital, but many of them will. And the potential collapse of Israel's healthcare system will be directly linked to the brazen disregard of every mitigation regulation by the ultra-Orthodox sector.
    מחאות בירושליםמחאות בירושלים
    Police arrest a Haredi man for violating coronavirus restrictions in Jerusalem
    (Photo: Shalom Shalev)
    This is an unacceptable situation and is the direct result of the government's capitulation to political pressure.
    The majority of Israeli politicians bow to the demands of the ultra-Orthodox minority, something we have seen in the debate over egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall or the row over kosher dietary laws.
    Israel is a Jewish and democratic country but it is becoming increasingly religious and continuously the victim of extortion by the Haredi political parties.
    Since this is a creeping process, we have been unable to spot the changes or call attention to them. In fact, we've grown accustomed to them.
    But now, we can observe the societal shift coming quickly.
    עימותים ליליים במודיעין עילית וירושליםעימותים ליליים במודיעין עילית וירושלים
    Haredi protesters against virus regulations clash with police in Modi'in Illit, left, and Jerusalem
    (Photo: Israel Police)
    Why the hell should the country's medical services collapse solely because so many in the Haredi community rebel against the government and its coronavirus mitigation directives and even against their own political representatives?
    Haredi communities in New York are now also revolting against local authorities. There, as here, the government is regarded as an outside ruler not an integral part of the public, and therefore it is legitimate to extort it for the community's needs.
    As of last week, 6,400 Haredi coronavirus patients had already been admitted to specially designated hotels in Israel, while only 1,200 secular patients were provided with this service. In other words, the sector that makes up 12% of the population was granted almost four times the number of rooms.
    There is no better example of the absurdity of the relationship between the state and its ultra-Orthodox citizens.
    The coronavirus pandemic is an opportunity to change this dynamic.
    הכנות לערב סוכות במאה שעריםהכנות לערב סוכות במאה שערים
    Ultra-Orthodox men congregate in Jerusalem in violation of health restrictions
    (Photo: Amit Shabi)
    Honorable Haredi leaders and their flocks would do well to rejoin the nation and condemn the extortion of Israel's politicians and public purse - something that has been going on for years - as well as the open rebellion unfolding before our eyes over the past few months.
    Change is necessary, and a normal, well-functioning government should have already called out this phenomenon.
    It should have insisted that any yeshiva (Orthodox Jewish seminary) that violates health restrictions would immediately lose state funding.
    It should insist that anyone who has contracted COVID-19 because of irresponsible and outrageous defiance of directives is placed at the end of the queue for medical attention.
    There is much more that can and should be done to save our country from the impossible burden placed on it by these ultra-Orthodox renegades, but our leaders must start somewhere, and the sooner they do, the better.
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