Israel Experiences a Resurgence of COVID-19, but This Time with No One to Blame

June 4, 2020 | Ruthie Blum
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During the past two weeks, the Israeli government has been gradually reopening schools, restaurants, and beaches, leading to a spike in the number of coronavirus cases, the reclosing of some schools, and the quarantining of hundreds. The new outbreaks, for the most part, have spared the ḥaredi communities so severely affected by the initial waves of the virus. But, writes Ruthie Blum, there has been no parallel expressions of anger akin to what was directed at the ultra-Orthodox two months ago:

One need not imagine the kind of epithets that would be flying through the air right now—faster than coronavirus droplets—if the transgressors in question were members of the ḥaredi community. No, that scenario has been an integral part of the blame game since the deadly virus first reared its microbes in the Jewish state.

As soon as Israelis started getting sick and dying, the Ḥaredim became both the face of the tragedy and the culprits behind its spread. Rather than examining and trying to empathize with the key reasons for the high rate of infection among the ultra-Orthodox—such as the large size of nuclear families living in cramped quarters, and a lack of access to news via TV and the Internet—the country turned on them as the perfect scapegoat for its frustration and fear of getting ill.

Following the Lag ba-Omer holiday last month, for instance, news sites highlighted every ultra-Orthodox bonfire with dramatic headlines while giving a perfunctory nod to the fact that most of the community stayed at home.

Nor are the hip Israelis who flouted the directives to such an extent that the government may have to reinstate temporary closures apologizing to the Ḥaredim, whom they previously vilified for the same behavior. Let the rest of us do it for them, then, while hanging our heads in shame.

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