Opinion: Ultra-Orthodox Israelis feel discriminated against and cast out by a government that has failed to persuade religious leaders that new coronavirus measures are necessary; these stringent measures will only destroy lives and faith in the authorities

There is all but zero chance that the overnight curfew imposed on communities across Israel will yield the hoped for results.

Such drastic measures require careful planning and execution carried out in full cooperation with local authorities and with public support. None of those prerequisites exist in the current situation because of haphazard preparation and implementation.

שוטרים בכניסה לבית שמש בעקבות הסגר הלילי
Police enforce curfew in an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Beit Shemesh (Photo: AP)


Haredi leaders, including Bnei Brak Mayor Avraham Rubinstein, have made their opinions known in a letter to the prime minister that condemned the government’s treatment of their communities. Religious and spiritual leaders were not consulted about the measures and are not convinced that they are justified.

Most students in the religious institutions in the red zones will continue to attend classes, believing that redemption will only come as a result of their devotion to God.

Yeshiva students in Bnei Brak during the coronavirus pandemic
Yeshiva students in Bnei Brak during the coronavirus pandemic (Photo: EPA)


The government has proven to its ultra-Orthodox citizens that they count for nothing, and therefore emotions in these communities are running high.

Rather than the authorities extending much needed assistance and support, both Haredi and Arab communities have been cast out and the rest of the country will be forced to pay the price.

Coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu claimed that night-time curfews have proven effective around the world. And although I want to believe him, he has presented no evidence on where such successes were registered.

Did Gamzu even take into consideration the impact of this decision on millions of men, women and children whose lives may be destroyed by it.

בית ספר
A Bnei Brak school remains open in violation of Health Ministry directives triggred by a high rate of contagion in the city


Was there even one moment of serious discussion before the decision was made? Are all government decisions made in this manner? Is this how ministers decide on employing hordes of personal and parliamentary assistants or purchasing their expensive cars? Do they devote the same lack of attention to their own pay rises?

The “start-up nation” has shown it is incapable of deciding what night-time closures should look like or how they should be enforced. This beggars belief.

No one can convince the residents of Bnei Brak and the other 39 localities that the measures are anything but more abuse of the weakest in our society – the ultra-Orthodox and Arab communities – demonizing them in the eyes of the rest of the population.

This is a polarizing strategy that will tear Israeli society apart in this time of crisis.

 Religious Jews pray outdoors in Bnei Brak
Religious Jews pray outdoors in Bnei Brak (Photo: AFP )


Reports are mouting about Haredi cancer patients or women arriving at hospital to give birth who are being discriminated against by medical personnel and other staff.

Employers are indicating they would rather not have their ultra-Orthodox staff come into the office, in stark contrast to the declared policy of this government to bring more of the community in the workforce.

These worrying trends began during the lockdown imposed last spring and have continued throughout the months of the pandemic. They are increasing and escalating all the time.

Whatever trust existed between Haredi community and the government is gone, and the new measures will do very little to convince people to adhere to Health Ministry restrictions that are vital in the fight against the virus.

המשטרה מנסה למנוע לוויה במאה שערים
Police attempt to block a funeral in an ultra-Orthodox quarter of Jerusalem in August (Photo: Pluralist)


This sense of chaos predetermines the failure of the new measures.

Are we to see IDF soldiers going from one house of prayer to another – shutting them down, pulling Jews wrapped in prayer shawls out into the streets, preventing them from celebrating the Jewish New Year?

For if this will be the case, any hope of adherence of health guidelines and directives would be completely destroyed.

As reported by Ynetnews