The chairperson of an ultra-Orthodox emergency response organization, ZAKA, has directed scathing criticism at his sector and its leaders after losing his mother to COVID-19 on Tuesday, calling those who try to play down the pandemic, "worse than Holocaust deniers."
Yehuda Meshi Zahav, chairman and one of the founders of the voluntary community emergency response organization, sought to warn the ultra-Orthodox public of the dangers of the disease after his mother, 80-year-old Sara Zeisel, succumbed to the illness after a month-long battle.
He also lost his 59-year-old brother that same month after a long battle with the disease, just two days after their mother was hospitalized. The family kept the news from her for several days.
"This is our leaders' fault. I say this with heavy heart, I think they're worse than Holocaust deniers. After all, Holocaust deniers deny history, and here, they're denying the present," Meshi Zahav told the Ynet studio in an interview.
"What's wrong with those leaders? How can they say, 'our hands did not spill that blood?' There are people around here who are suspected of spilling blood, even if people call them 'rabbis'. There isn't a single neighborhood, building, or home without at least one victim.
"Forty-four people have died in the last 24 hours, 44 families whose entire worlds fell apart, 44 families for whom nothing will ever be the same again - and we played it down. Can’t they see? Each one of us is literally a ticking time bomb," he said.
"Their obituaries shouldn't say, 'rest in peace,' but 'may the Lord avenge their blood' instead. Hearing [coronavirus patients'] cries in coronavirus wards, it's heart-wrenching. There is no one there to hear them, and I am sitting there, watching ambulance after ambulance taking out the dead."
He slammed the sector and the leadership for dismissing the pandemic, which hit the Haredi communities disproportionately.
"This is the leadership's fault that our public plays [the pandemic] down like this. These people are infecting their communities – and each one of them is a ticking time bomb. A ballistic missile that's hurting others," he said.
"Everything that is going on in our communities is unbelievable. They should take care of themselves the most. With any other health problem, we are quick to go see the best doctors, so what has happened here?"
Meshi Lahav admitted that his mother contracted the virus at an event that celebrated the holiday of Hannukah.
"[My mother] was a healthy and active woman. It's clear as daylight that she has died of COVID. We guarded our parents all year long. My brother lived with them and did not let anyone go near them. But he went abroad on Hanukkah and they held a party in which everyone contracted the virus. My mother, who was such a vital, healthy, active and charitable woman – contracted the virus and her lungs slowly collapsed."