Coronavirus: The plague is fattening with the God-fearing in Israel | International – The Union Journal

Posted By on June 10, 2020

An ultra-Orthodox Jew, before a mobile coronavirus testing center in Jerusalem.OPEN SULTAN / EFE

In Bnei Brak, the massive funeral of Aharon Shteinman, an Ashkenazi spiritual leader, who died in 2017 at 104, is still remembered. About 200,000 ultra-Orthodox fired the gadol hador, the most revered Jewish teacher of his generation and head of the council of sages of influential ultra-religious parties in Israel, in that pious suburb of the profane Tel Aviv agglomeration. On March 30, two weeks after the imposition of the confinement of the population by the pandemic, four hundred followers of his yeshiva (Talmudic school) They attended the burial of Rabbi Tzvi Shenkar in the same city. The images of the large funeral procession filled the patience of the secular sectors of Hebrew society, cloistered in their homes while the Jaredis, or God-fearing, violated sanitary restrictions.

Three days later, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent the Army and the police to seal the checkpoints at the entrances to Bnei Brak, whose 200,000 inhabitants impoverished families with an average of seven or eight children are crowded into just seven square kilometers.

Although they represent little more than a tenth of the nine million inhabitants of Israel, the ultra-Orthodox concentrate a third of the 15,000 cases of coronavirus registered so far. After the initial outbreak of contagion in the center of the country, the authorities also closed the ultra-religious neighborhoods of Jerusalem, inhabited by 250,000 of its 900,000 neighbors and which accounted for 75% of the positive cases of the virus. In addition to suffering more intensely from the plague of the pandemic, the Jaredis have been marked by the social stigma of ignoring containment measures.

Above all, they are very poor and numerous families, who live in very small houses, says Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, deputy mayor of Jerusalem, in an attempt to build bridges with religious voters, whose parties support the conservative municipal government. Its City Council distributes about 20,000 meals a day among the neediest households in these communities, where a large part of men dedicates themselves exclusively to the study of sacred scriptures and prayer, while women are (75% activity rate). those that support the family economy with precarious jobs and social assistance.

These neighborhoods have not been closed because they are ultra-Orthodox, but because they are the areas with the highest rate of infection, emphasizes the deputy mayor responsible for International Relations. The disputes between Jewish religious leaders over health standards have left many of their followers without guidance, Hassan-Nahoum acknowledges.

The contagions among the ultrareligious multiplied from March 10, with the celebration of Purim or Jewish carnival. While health officials were already warning Israelis of the need to maintain social distancing, hundreds of thousands of Jaredis participated in mass festivals.

A month later, during the Jewish Passover festivities, the same mistake was avoided by decreeing a general curfew, says the Deputy Mayor, who reports the gradual return to normality after the withdrawal of the security forces. . In the streets of Mea Shearim, the largest ultra-Orthodox district in Jerusalem, the use of face masks is accepted, declared mandatory by the Government under a fine of 200 shequels (about 50 euros). Meanwhile, the Estrella de David Roja health emergency service has installed a mobile test center in that neighborhood with the support of troops from the Domestic Front Command, equivalent to the Spanish Military Emergency Unit, with Yiddish interpreters (Central European Jewish dialect ).

The sanitary cord raised in Bnei Brak and the Jero-Limit neighborhoods has just moved to Beit Shemesh, another ultra-Orthodox fief in the province of Jerusalem, among whose 62,000 residents there are 320 positives, compared to 202 in secular Tel Aviv (450,000 inhabitants) .

The ultrareligious Jews are grouped into two great currents in Israel. Ashkenazi (Central European), with Hasidic and Lithuanian branches, and Sephardic or Eastern. The first has political representation in the Union for Torah and Judaism (UTJ), while the second has the Shas party. Both forces thrive on the disciplined vote of their adherents under the guidance of the rabbis.

After propping up Netanyahu in power for five years, they aspire to continue to maintain the generous public financing of their educational and social centers within the new coalition, agreed by the conservative prime minister with the centrist Benny Gantz.

Acting Health Minister, UTJ ultra-Orthodox Jacob Litzman, who heads the strategy against the coronavirus, has become the target of criticism for having tested positive after attending the collective prayer in a synagogue, despite the ban imposed by your own department. Litzman has announced this Saturday that he is going to resign from the health portfolio to move to Housing in the new Cabinet, according to the Hebrew press.

In the Lithuanian Jewish rite that follows Liztman, many religious officials consider that Torah study protects the Jewish community from all danger. Tens of thousands of radical rabbi followers have demanded this week the reopening of the yeshivas to the Government, which applies a plan for the gradual recovery of economic activity within the process of de-escalation of containment measures.

The Administration and spiritual leaders share the responsibility of not having prepared the Jared community before the risks of the pandemic, maintains the anthropologist of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Ben Kasstan when analyzing the social stigma that has fallen on those who fear God. in this health crisis. His infection rate has been disproportionate, he argues in a study published by Haaretz, And many people hold them accountable for causing serious harm to society by ignoring the restrictions imposed during the pandemic.

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Coronavirus: The plague is fattening with the God-fearing in Israel | International - The Union Journal

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