Israel’s Ultraorthodox: A Perfect Viral Storm

[T]here’s a deeper issue which makes the Haredim particularly exposed [to coronavirus]. Their deep belief that they can’t be taught anything. There’s nothing new under the sun. That they were always here, learning Torah, and survived despite everything. So don’t tell them about COVID-19 and doctors. They have the best medicine, which science can never improve on. They call it Torah magna u’matlza – Torah protects and saves. But it’s not Torah, it’s the belief in continuity. 

Continuity is the biggest ultra-Orthodox myth. Their belief that their way of life is the thousands year-old Jewish tradition, and that all Jews in all time aspired to, until foreign ideas muddled them, was to study Torah their entire lives. Of course, this is an invention. 

The Haredi ideology of voluntarily closing their community off from the world is about 200 years old and came about as a reaction to enlightenment and emancipation. The practice of every man studying Torah all day, every day, only exists from the mid-1950s when the concentration of most ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel and the U.S. allowed them to live while learning, at poverty-level, but to live, in welfare societies.


Israel’s largest hospital has now banned haredim from its emergency room.

“When I see a Haredi person, I immediately think he has coronavirus,” a senior health official [comments]. “This is the right thing to do, it is our obligation to do it this way.”

‘An Authoritarian Power Structure Brought Coronavirus to Liberty University’

Yes. Well. (Article is subscription only, but all you need is the headline.) UD can’t be the only one who has noted that the word liberty in little Falwell’s fiefdom carries the same value as democratic in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. As she has said repeatedly when writing about religion, subs and doms is the name of the game in many sects, and the more fundamentalist the kinkier. Let me die for you, Master.

‘“Everything here is by word-of-mouth rumor,” a senior official in the ultra-Orthodox town of Modi’in Illit told Haaretz. “There’s no oversight. People decide for themselves whether to go into isolation or not… We have no direct connection to the Health Ministry. The little that we know comes from people we know and unofficial conversations.”’

It’s quite a luxury for a modern state to maintain – nay, encourage – enormous pockets of pre-modern, anti-state populations. They don’t educate their children; they break national laws because they have no respect for such laws; they impose their thirteenth century sense of how daily life should be lived on a country overwhelmingly either secular or only moderately religious.

In pre-viral times, such populations are a terrible social and fiscal burden; when epidemics occur in communities whose members either don’t know what science is, or disbelieve in it, the luxury of indulging in an experiment to see whether a modern state can sustain itself while allowing massive ignorance and state-hatred to thrive within its borders suddenly reveals itself for the suicidal folly that it has always been.

Ah bin to the…

mountaintop! Datz me smilin’ behind the king of kings! And now the lord done drug me low! Done turned my smile to a frown!

Eleven Student Soldiers For Christ!

And, as Liberty University students and faculty continue to assemble, more to come. “None has astroprojected yet,” President Falwell announced yesterday in his weekly Student Morbidity Update, “but as some enter into their last agonies, transforming into icons of the agony of our lord, we will follow with confidence their ascension into heaven. And as the lord through plague conveys his final judgment of all mankind, we ourselves will surely follow after our students into eternal life. As it says in Isaiah: a child will lead them.”

For after all, as our Jewish brethren put it,the pandemic is

“getting us closer to the redemption,” the coming of the Messiah.

A textbook example of suicidal accommodation to religious and political extremism…

… is occurring in Israel, where, in the midst of a pandemic, police chose not to break up a gathering of hundreds of people. In almost any other state, a sect like the Jerusalem Faction, which is openly and sometimes violently opposed to Israel itself, would be under strict government control on a routine basis.

The mass gathering was in direct violation of the Health Ministry directives, which forbids gatherings of more than 10 people, including prayers, weddings, and funerals, in an attempt to halt the spread of the coronavirus.   Police officers were at the funeral, but no attempts were made to fine the mourners or to stop the event…

School Song, Liberty University

(Sing it.)

We will all go together when we go

What a comforting fact that is to know

Universal bereavement – what an inspiring achievement

Yes we all will go together when we go!


UPDATE: [C]lasses are now online, [but] repeated emails from the university to faculty members over the past week and a half insisted that all instructors must conduct their online classes from their campus offices, and that they are still expected to hold office hours and welcome students for face-to-face interaction…

Perhaps this is a debate over what it means for Liberty to be “open.” In his most recent statements, Falwell seems to be defining the term as opening the campus back up to all students and holding classes in classrooms. But the local and state officials and community members who have condemned Falwell’s decision seem to have a different definition: To them, a college campus full of thousands of people is an open campus, regardless of whether or not the classes it offers are being conducted online.

The question that everyone seems to have for Falwell is simple: Why? Why allow thousands of students, faculty and staff to congregate on campus when doing so goes against the guidelines of nearly every health organization in the Western world?

You know how little Jerry’s thinking: Only good things come to those who love the lord. If bad things happen to those same people, they didn’t truly love the lord, and for that they deserve punishment.

Scathing Online Schoolmarm Scathes through an Opinion Piece that Perfectly Expresses What Must, Amid the Coronavirus Outbreak, be Called the Suicidal Acceptance of Any Mindless Cult that Calls Itself a Religion.

“You can get away with the most extraordinary offenses to morality and to truth in this country if you’ll just get yourself called Reverend” remarked Christopher Hitchens of the founder of the only university in America that’s about to reopen. In an extraordinary opinion piece about perverse pockets of resistance to self-isolating, Candida Moss duly notes this country’s raving reverends, its potted pastors, the flagellants at the journal First Things; she mentions too the South Korean cult at the heart of that country’s epidemic… She fails to mention the sometimes violent ultraorthodox cults in Israel, Europe, and the United States, but we need to throw them in…

She lists all of these disease-spreaders with respect, with the understanding that of course all such people and groups qualify as upstanding Christians and Jews, our brethren, part of the beautiful world (as a word in her headline puts it), of “faith.”


Since we need to stop fanatics from killing us, let us examine precisely how ethically dense people like Moss help make this life-saving goal unreachable.

This week, as stores, restaurants and other businesses shuttered their doors to help stem the spread of coronavirus, a number of conservative Christians chose to frame their response to the pandemic in a different way: as an opportunity to choose “faith over fear.”

The rhetoric of that last phrase – an opportunity to choose – recalls Jack Gladney’s response to his wife’s choice, amid the “airborne toxic event” in White Noise, to regard the disaster as “a good time to cut down on fatty things.” To which Gladney responds:

I think it’s interesting that you regard a possible disaster for yourself, your family and thousands of other people as an opportunity to cut down on fatty foods.

Of course, the people Moss has in mind don’t really choose anything; they are proud submissives, majorly into suffering and dying for the lord or the chief rabbi or whatever. To them, the virus represents an opportunity to manifest submission. They’re not like hedonistic spring breakers; they’re compelled to prove something.

We’re talking snake-handlers here, many of whom die venomously while under the protection of the holy spirit – and I’m pretty sure Moss would extend the same ecumenical courtesy to snake-handlers that she extends to the Falwells.

Hers is a category error, not to mention a catastrophic mistake for humankind.

While religious activity may be an essential part of people’s lives, the assumption that social distancing equates to spiritual estrangement is up for debate. Should religious freedom be allowed to put the lives of the many at risk?

Religious; religious; spiritual; freedom – how kind of Moss to honor the kinkiest among us with these epithets. How kind of her to frame the problem of what to do with destructive masochists as a “debate.” Here are some better word choice suggestions from SOS: cultic; criminally negligent (I mean, let’s also honor with words like faith Christian Scientists who kill their kids: Or is Moss reserving judgment of isolation-resisters until they too kill family members?); stupid; socially toxic.

In her last paragraphs (how many readers will get to these?) Moss finally says the right stuff:

What is most frightening about these latest expressions of “religious freedom” is not just that they threaten to place others at risk, but that religious conservatives form a substantial part of Donald Trump’s voter base — his plan to reopen by Easter may be well timed to speak to them.

Now the phrase religious freedom gets the quotation marks it deserves; but Moss still considers fringe groups (think here of the Mormon church’s endless efforts to disaffiliate itself from backwoods polygamists fucking fourteen year olds for the lord) “conservative Christians.” Call them what they are, lady – disturbed reactionaries who damage the legitimate religions they parasitize, and who now threaten the health of nations.


The attitude of religion to medicine, like the attitude of religion to science, is always necessarily problematic and very often necessarily hostile. A modern believer can say and even believe that his faith is quite compatible with science and medicine, but the awkward fact will always be that both things have a tendency to break religion’s monopoly, and have often been fiercely resisted for that reason. What happens to the faith healer and the shaman when any poor citizen can see the full effect of drugs and surgeries, administered without ceremonies or mystifications? Roughly the same thing as happens to the rainmaker when the climatologist turns up, or to the diviner from the heavens when schoolteachers get hold of elementary telescopes. Plagues of antiquity were held to be punishment from the gods, which did much to strengthen the hold of the priesthood and much to encourage the burning of infidels and heretics who were thought—in an alternative explanation—to be spreading disease by witchcraft or else poisoning the wells. We may make allowances for the orgies of stupidity and cruelty that were indulged in before humanity had a clear concept of the germ theory of disease. Most of the “miracles” of the New Testament have to do with healing, which was of such great importance in a time when even minor illness was often the end. (Saint Augustine himself said that he would not have believed in Christianity if it were not for the miracles.) Scientific critics of religion such as Daniel Dennett have been generous enough to point out that apparently useless healing rituals may even have helped people get better, in that we know how important morale can be in aiding the body to fight injury and infection. But that would be an excuse only available in retrospect. By the time Dr. Jenner had discovered that a cowpox vaccine could ward off smallpox, this excuse had become void. Yet Timothy Dwight, a president of Yale University and to this day one of America’s most respected “divines,” was opposed to the smallpox vaccination because he regarded it as an interference with god’s design. And this mentality is still heavily present, long after its pretext and justification in human ignorance has vanished.

‘As I walked away, I noticed posters on the side of the building blaming the coronavirus pandemic on Orthodox women wearing wigs made from non-Jewish hair.’

Yes, a subsection of Israel’s cultists really is that stupid. And serious numbers of them continue to ignore government containment directives.

‘[T]he rabbis … approved the wedding as “it is well known that no harm can come at a celebration of the righteous.”’

Israel has been encouraging illicit cultists since its founding. How can anyone be surprised that these secretive sects have under current conditions simply morphed into virus vectors? “[M]any of us [have] watched in absolute horror as our ultra-Orthodox brothers and sisters [have] attended weddings by the hundreds,” writes an Israeli observer.

Anyone could have predicted that they would ignore health guidelines and put the entire country at risk. Short of locking up thousands of people, there’s nothing to be done. God will infect them and their neighbors and it is God’s will.

It is the leaders who must be aware of threats to the community and to know when to order a shift in practice, and it is them I blame for what is about to occur. When we see hundreds if not thousands of ultra-Orthodox become ill with this virus, it is they who must answer for their deeds.

And don’t worry about our missing out in the United States!

Jewish leaders have voiced concern in recent days about an outbreak within the city’s Hasidic neighborhoods, amid growing evidence that many in the community are not taking the coronavirus health crisis seriously. Despite a state restriction on gatherings of 50 or more people, many synagogues across the city continued to hold large weddings on Tuesday. A handful of yeshivas remained open to children as well, local leaders said.

Every political leader, every city, every state, and every country that subsidized for decades – continues to subsidize – large numbers of people who teach their children contempt for secular authority and ignorance of an empirical realm that features viral infection, can take a bow.

Pandemics always bring out the world’s superdemento tyrants and their moron followers…

… cuz these guys never cooperate with the forces of reason under any circumstances cuz they are the unacknowledged rulers of the universe. So the Israeli police can visit and plead all they like, but crowding people into rooms to sway over religious texts obviously takes precedence over the godless demands of some so-called state.


And Korea can plead and plead with the messiah of all messiahs but he will instruct his pathetic followers to lie and lie until coronavirus spreads through that country.

They meet often in small halls, where they are huddled close together. Members aren’t allowed to wear any accessories on their faces – like glasses or protective masks – because they are considered insults to God, several former members of the movement told South Korean media.

Moreover, participating in weekly meetings is mandatory – rain or shine, and even in case of illness. Members of the movement must clock in when they arrive and when they leave a “working session”, which allows executives of the group to monitor devotees’ diligence. A cold or early signs of flu would not be considered sufficient to exonerate a member from doing his or her duty to preach the Good Word.

Here’s why it’s crucial for all non-suicidal states to take seriously the difference between sociopathic cults and legitimate religions:

A petition signed by more than a million people has been presented to the South Korean government requesting the dissolution of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, which counts more than 200,000 members.

Why should we need to petition our governments to outlaw homicidally debauched sects? Shouldn’t our governments already be using our laws to identify, surveil, and if need be dissolve the criminally insane operating in secret in the name of religion? Religion is not (quoting once again Katha Pollit) “what people make of it.” Not when they make of it twisted killing machines.

You have every right to nominate yourself one of the Three Christs of Ypsilanti. And if you can find enough faithful to populate a sanctuary, go for it. You get shut down when you start killing people.

Hey. Successful march.

They weren’t gang-raped while being beheaded.

“If you belong to a religious minority that, say, doesn’t believe in the theory of evolution and does not accept that history is an important discipline, what do you do with that?”

Quebec is now ground zero for the fight between state and sect, having recently passed Bill 21, which bans all religious clothing and accessories among certain public sector employees in the workplace, and also having begun a Superior Court trial in a case brought against the province by an ex-hasid for educational neglect. Fiercely secular, Quebec followed France (which it sees as a model in the matter of laïcité) in banning burqas and niqabs from much of the public sector; Bill 21 extends this government constraint of religious expression (let’s be generous and agree that the burqa/niqab have something to do with religion – even though it’s more persuasive, it seems to me, to characterize them as pre- or even anti-Islamic and tribal) to things like hijabs and turbans and crucifixes on people who are working in the state sector. The ongoing Superior Court trial reveals that although Quebec claims to be quite secular, it’s not vigilant in secularity’s defense: If the complaints at the trial stand up, the government was perfectly aware for decades of the Tash cult, which kept its children in abysmal ignorance.

Jewish cultists all over the world, including the United States and of course notoriously in Israel, practice appalling educational malpractice, and although the court cases and school inspections and for real and we really mean it this time national education standards keep coming, the cultists persist in turning out unemployably ignorant people whose lifelong dysfunction our welfare payments support. No doubt the outcome of the Quebec trial will be a concession on the part of the province that they certainly fucked up in letting Canadian citizens raise their children according to thirteenth century standards; but without severe and unremitting penalties (school closures; unpleasant financial implications) nothing will change.


And as to the business of believing horseshit — the sort of thing the professor quoted in this post’s title mentions — well here’s how ol’ UD feels about that.

Our current vice-president doesn’t believe in evolution. Millions of Americans don’t believe in evolution along with him. Pence is leading the coronavirus effort, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he personally disbelieved the germ theory of disease.

The vice president thinks smoking doesn’t kill, condoms are “very poor” protection against disease, and the best way to curb an H.I.V. outbreak is through prayer.

Mehdi Hasan, whose opinion piece on the burqa I linked to up there, thinks Muhammed flew up to heaven on a winged horse. Plenty of competent, upstanding citizens who went to good colleges believe a crapload of horseshit. UD has some pretty weird articles of faith – or call them intuitions – herself, come to that… I mean, not as weird as the stuff I’ve been citing, but pretty weird.

So what. It’s the essence of personal liberty in the pursuit of happiness within a liberal democratic state that you can dabble in the alchemy of your choice on your own time as long as it doesn’t put anyone in danger, and as long as you fulfill the basic duties of a citizen. Mike Pence’s entry into the age of reason might all be a ruse, but as long as he keeps up the pretense of being one of us I don’t care. We’re onto ye olde private/public distinction here; and the position you take on Quebec’s Bill 21 will ride on whether you regard the outward exposure of your inward, arguably anti-democratic, and often anti-intellectual, beliefs to be damaging to the education of citizens of a secular state, or as undermining the authority and identity of a secular judicial system.

Prescient Words from a Veteran of AIPAC.

On February 5, when AIPAC’s “Combating BDS” bill passed the Senate, 22 Democrats voted against it. That is a decent number, but the real sign that AIPAC’s power is on the wane is that every Democratic senator who is a candidate for president (except Amy Klobuchar) voted No. They voted No because they are seeking to win support from the Democratic grassroots, which, naturally enough, skews younger and younger, more and more progressive, and less and less white, leading naturally enough to more sympathy for Palestinians and less for Netanyahu’s Israel. That wouldn’t have happened before 2016, when Bernie Sanders embraced Palestinians and their cause as part of his coalition and not only did not lose support because of it but gained it. By 2020, it will be close to impossible for any Democrat to claim the progressive mantle while aligning with AIPAC.

That was this time last year. Now everyone’s all Lawdy Me! because Sanders (and Warren) won’t attend AIPAC’s 2020 convention. He’s been very consistent that AIPAC represents and underwrites a reactionary form of Zionism. His is a plausible and principled position. AIPAC can huff and puff, but there’s no real news story here. In fact, it’s quite old news, as AIPAC well knows.

Masochism Deficiency Among Ultraorthodox Females: An Emergent Problem

A renegade group of Israel’s haredi women is complaining about breast cancer!

We care deeply about women’s health. The Health Ministry showed that breast cancer mortality is highest among Haredi women, and we tried to understand why. We saw that there were no public service announcements about the need for constant checkups. Women get tested too late. In our society, they don’t even call it breast cancer, but ‘the female affliction.’ … They use a hazy term because they are considered unchaste words. Haredi women have a unique lifestyle: They marry early, they get pregnant young and have many children, which has health effects, good and bad, but no one talks about this issue or allocates funds to address it. In 2014, we convened the Knesset committee for women’s equality to discuss the issue of ultra-Orthodox women’s health, and the Haredi lawmakers were a no-show, even though it concerned their mothers and their grandmothers.

What next? Political representation?

Our problems are the result of living in a democratic state without getting our democratic rights. The state must intervene… The law should be changed so that every party will have to include a certain number of women on its Knesset list… We were at the Knesset the day that Shas and United Torah Judaism submitted their lists. The election committee got two lists of 120 men, and no one batted an eye. What if some party said that they’re anti-Ethiopian? It’s undemocratic. I won’t agree to have my right of representation taken away. Right now, there’s no one representing 51 percent of the Haredi population… At the first stage, they should say: ‘You want a male-only list? No problem, but you’ll get only 50 percent of your election budget.’

And there’s that old chestnut: We do all the work, our husbands are fucking layabouts, and we are silent, invisible, and disenfranchised.

The ultra-Orthodox economy is on our shoulders, but our voices aren’t heard – not in the media, not in politics, not in the religious council or the local council. In other societies, your economic status gives you a certain social status as well, but not in a society whose values revolve around Torah study.

UD is beginning to worry about the viability of ultraorthodox Judaism. If it cannot continue to make its women glory in poverty, overwork, and social contempt, its future is in doubt.

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