When Haredim Met Sally

Israel’s successive governments must of course take ownership of the large group of people in their country who, while they must be counted among the worst subcultures in the world, consider themselves the absolute best. Israel itself allowed its ultraorthodox to cultify and stultify, to rule the private, public, and spiritual lives of millions of normal Israelis, and to ransack any conception of Israel as a gathering place of diverse Jews. The sickening behavior Israel has brought upon itself only grows, as that country now attempts to legislate itself away from ultraorthodox control.

One of the younger, more prominent haredi politicians just shat on a woman serving in Israel’s military as a “shiksa” because she converted in an IDF conversion.


The ultraorthodox party just released a political ad snickering at Jewish converts as dogs.

Opposition leader Yair Lapid tweeted in response: “My father once told me that there was a big sign in the parliament in Budapest: ‘No entry for Jews and dogs.’ Anti-Semites in every generation always compared Jews to dogs. Now United Torah Judaism has joined them. Disgusting.”

Les Girls!

Shamima Begum may have committed heinous acts, but she was then a fifteen year old girl failed by the British state. She is now a twenty-one year old woman who has been failed by the British state once more... [Revoking citizenship] deprives someone of their home and their family,  forcing them into a country that they do not know, and that does not want to know them. 


Having read pretty much everything on this ISIS convert [see post below this one for details and update] who now wants to go back to England, I conclude that everyone and everything failed her. Not just the state. Her parents failed her. Her school failed her. Her acquaintances who groomed her failed her. The men who trafficked her (yes, some defenders go so far as to claim this — with no evidence) failed her. The culture of infatuation and romance failed her, making her vulnerable — innocent and lovesick — to the groomers.

A British man who went to Syria to fight against ISIS writes:

She was fifteen [when she joined ISIS]. When I was fifteen I knew rape, murder, and kidnapping were wrong. There’s no indication that she has any remorse or that she’s any less dangerous.

Oh but he’s a guy! Fifteen year old girls are moral idiots, I guess. And they’re certainly too idiotic for us even to begin to imagine that rather than having been failed by everyone, they simply read ISIS literature, watched ISIS videos, thought about it, and made an ideological commitment to its goals. You can read – as UD has – scads of opinion pieces about Begum and you’ll never encounter that claim – that this A-student (apparently Begum was a gifted student) read, understood, and so fervently agreed with one particular form of fundamentalist Islam that she made a considered, life-altering commitment to it. (It reminds ol’ UD of the fate of fascism. Apparently no one was ever a fascist – no one ever absorbed the tenets of fascism, liked them, and became a committed fascist. The fault lay with the state, or history, or coercion, or the church, or charismatic leaders…)

Funny, though. Here’s Begum’s own take on the matter:

Ms Begum said she made the choice to go to Syria and could make her own decisions, despite being only 15 at the time. She said she was partly inspired by videos of fighters beheading hostages…

Although Patrick Cockburn, unsurprisingly, comes to conclusions about the Begum problem very different from mine, he is more scathing than I in his description of her moral responsibility and depravity.


[Revoking citizenship] deprives someone of their home and their family,  forcing them into a country that they do not know, and that does not want to know them. 

Strange thing to say. Begum broke – exultantly – with her home and family; she willingly went to a state – the Islamic State – that very much wanted her.

Maybe it mainly wanted her womb – she was there, as she has subsequently noted, to be knocked up as often as possible. This was fine with her – to act as a caliphate-womb, to be “married,” instantly, on arrival, to some random fighter and start having babies. Fine too were the abuse of Yazidi slaves, the sewing of human bomb vests, and the witnessing of beheadings. All in a day’s work. All in service to an ideal.

Look. Shamima Begum has a state. At the moment, it is reconstituting itself. When it is strong and stable enough, it will send for her. Maybe she will decide – as she decided with England – to break with that state. Then she will have to start looking for a third one.

A Decision seems to have been made, at the New York Times, to Up the Alert Levels about Israel’s Devastatingly Anarchic Haredim.

One long, highly produced, article after another appears there, highlighting the destructive primitivism, and the law-breaking, of Israel’s large, politically powerful, and often violent, ultraorthodox population. Today’s piece recounts the sickening synergy of a government that refuses to deal with the covid-burdened haredim, and the determination of many ultraorthodox to flout any form of compliance with health rules.

I mean, literally sickening. A recent El Al flight full of secular and religious Israelis returning from New York featured a group of ultraorthodox – maskless and gathered in groups in the aisles, both against all safety/security rules – boasting among themselves about having forged documents declaring that they were not covid positive. Of course some were indeed infected, so everyone on that flight has had to enter isolation, etc., etc.

[D]ozens of passengers were notified by the Health Ministry that 11 of those on board were found to be infected with the coronavirus and that they must enter quarantine.

A woman on the plane claimed that she heard ultra-Orthodox passengers boasting that they had used fake coronavirus tests to get on the flight, Hebrew media reported. Other passengers said that during the flight ultra-Orthodox passengers did not wear masks at times and that the cabin crew did little to encourage them to cover up.

Tal, a passenger on the flight, told the Ynet website that as passengers were getting on the plane she noticed a group of young ultra-Orthodox men boasting that they had obtained faked tests “and saying that they hadn’t taken them at all.”

Tal said that she had approached staff about the matter and was told there was nothing they could do. She also said that although the cabin crew assured her they would require all passengers to wear masks during the flight, the ultra-Orthodox passengers moved around, stood in groups praying, and did not wear masks.

“I pleaded with the stewardesses to ask them to put masks on but I got the response ‘you are hysterical, you have nothing to fear,’” she said.

Another passenger, who declined to be identified, told Channel 12 News that the cabin crew did not intervene when he raised the issue of the masks.

“We approached the cabin staff, we asked that they make sure they wear masks, but they assured us that everything was okay and we are panicking for nothing,” said the passenger.

“They were playing with our lives,” he said. “The flight attendants were afraid to confront them and we paid a heavy price.”

You bet they were afraid. Angry, massed haredim are a nasty business on the ground; you really don’t want to rile them in the air.

Like most cults, ultraorthodox have cults within cults, breakaways that get up to even more violent stuff than the mainstream ultraorthodox.

In the 1980s, the “operations officer” of the extremist Jerusalem sect Eda Haredit, Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, led a gang that, among other violent acts, set fire to all Jerusalem bus stops that featured advertisements with images of women.

The descendants of such groups today torch buses, not just bus stops. They spit and shout “whore!” at primary school girls whose skirts fall an inch too short. Tinier and tinier sectarianism has made accommodation to covid measures weak at best:

[S]ome in the community now adhered to the [finally rabbi-mandated] regulations even more avidly than the secular population. But not every sect agreed. Followers of the radical “Jerusalem Faction” — who split from the main community years ago, arguing that [the larger group was] too soft in their attitude toward the secular state — and other extreme splinter groups refused to obey the new orders.

And maybe it’s because years of living with absurd cultists have made Israel itself absurd, but its not uncommon to hear even people in responsible positions say things like this:

“We are talking about a community with values, with a lot of love for mankind. But it does not think of itself as belonging to Israeli civil society.”

What a pretty cliche, love for mankind. But of course for this value-community Israeli civil society can curl up and die.

And, given their mindless defiance, these lovers of mankind are killing themselves too. They’ve already cut quite a swathe among their oldest, and they’re making impressive inroads among younger people.

Among the ultra-Orthodox, the percentage of those testing positive is more than double that of the rest of the population. The true impact of the pandemic is expressed in the death toll: One in every 100 ultra-Orthodox people over the age of 60 has died from the disease, three and a half times as many as in the general population.

Expect more NYT features, as the drama of state failure emanating from powerful, destructive cults plays on.

‘[Michel] Houellebecq is among a growing number of Western intellectuals flirting with anti-liberalism: Perhaps liberalism is not the unmitigated good most of us are raised to believe it is. In an odd way, though, liberalism’s critics end up saying more about the resilience of liberalism than its demise.’

Here’s an excellent, brief, 2018 essay about the trend – especially among a group of Catholic scholars in America – to dump liberal democracy for theocracy. Shadi Hamid’s focus is fundamentalist Islam, but his argument applies as well to the emergence, here, of intellectual briefs for what UD calls a Cathophate.

Ol’ UD remains truly shocked right down to the ground that respectable American academics openly argue for a future of religious tyranny in this country, of “Christian authoritarianism — muscular paternalism, with government enforcing social solidarity for religious reasons.” I mean to say that the moment I grasped what Adrian Vermeulen and Patrick Deneen and company were about, I was fucking gobsmacked, and I still am. I’m still all of a mucksweat about it. I’m like in permanent Margaret Dumont shock.

Chalk it up to UD‘s naivete + emotional instability if you like, but I actually don’t get why all sentient Americans aren’t shitting themselves over being told by Mariolatric Madoffs that they need only invest in the Edmund Waldstein Radiant Future Fund to realize Total Happiness Now and Forever. God does not want you for an Individual Liberty friend! In Bondage and Submission lies Salvation!


Whew. Hold on. Getting a little hot here…

… Margaret Dumont only pretended to be scandalized by the twisted Marx Brothers; similarly, maybe UD‘s sublimating her actual erotic attraction to The Story of O, Saved by Flagellants… ? To the idea of a total male total priesthood running their switches over her bum… ?


Yet. As Hamid asks, “Is a lack of meaning really worse than a lack of freedom? … What liberalism’s critics appear unable, or unwilling, to address is whether a lack of meaning is a worse problem to have than a lack of freedom.” Maybe liberalism – “the political order that privileges non-negotiable rights, personal freedoms, and individual autonomy” – issues in some degree of conceptual confusion, and maybe even in a difficulty or refusal to commit oneself to clear philosophical/theological convictions – but is this really so unbearable a position to be in that one’s only option is rule by monks who think burning heretics at the stake is key to good governance?

“Endless free choice,” as Deneen disparagingly calls it, is a dead end. Choice needs to be a means to something else, but to what? Legally based religious systems—which only Islam among the largest religions potentially offers—quite consciously seek to restrict choice in the name of virtue and salvation…

And that’s the thing. Deneen can argue all he likes about the disabling side effects of individual liberty, but what he’s really about is damnation or salvation. The Medieval Church wafts you upward; free thought’s an express train to the abyss.

As the doorbell ringers at the beginning of The Book of Mormon put it: Have fun in hell.

A Republic, Si Tu Peux La Garder.

With its school teachers targeted for threats or outright assassination if they champion free speech, and with homegrown terrorism an ever-present danger, France has passed a new law aimed at suppressing separatist, fundamentalist forces within the country.

It extends the requirement of strict religious neutrality beyond civil servants to anyone who is a private contractor of a public service — like bus drivers. It also creates a new offense of “separatism,” defined as threatening, intimidating or assaulting an elected official or a public-sector employee... It obliges community associations that receive public funds to sign a contract committing to the “principles of liberty, equality, fraternity, and respect of human dignity.” Any religious association receiving foreign funds will have to provide a strict accounting... Condoning terrorism becomes an offense that may lead to a ban on holding public office.

Most interestingly, it comes close to banning home schooling.

[I]t places severe limits on home-schooling without banning it, as originally proposed. Educating children at home is viewed by the government as a source of the “separatism” that undermines French values, as well as a means for conservative Muslim families to keep young girls from what they see as corrupting influences.

Obviously the education of children is where it’s at when it comes to increasing the likelihood of producing a democrat rather than a demagogue; any self-respecting secular state will want, with great urgency, to educate its citizens in the instinct to be free individuals with enlightened values. Secular countries unable to make separatist religious minorities teach their children the national curriculum will end up like Israel, with its disastrous, benighted, ultra-orthodox.

It’s not merely that the ultraorthodox have no loyalty to Israel; they have little to no conception of it as a state; and to the extent that they do have an image of it in their heads, they’re hostile – often violently hostile – to it.

Our own violent Christian tribalists mobbed the Capitol building not long ago, crosses locked and loaded, and we should take their insistence that they are the only true Americans as seriously as Israel should take the haredi insistence that they are the only true Jews.

Christian nationalism is the pursuit of tribal power, not the common good; it is identity politics for right-wing (mostly white) Christians; it is the attempt to ‘own and operate the American brand,’ as someone else wrote; it is an attitude of entitlement among Christians that we have a presumptive right to define what America is. I oppose identity politics of all kinds, including the identity politics of my tribe.

Might France’s escalating legislation aimed at integration so anger its separatists that they will en masse take to the streets? Maybe. Consider, though: Israel has done nothing but propitiate its separatists, and they’ve taken to the streets anyway.

‘I am the life, and the insurrection.’

Scion of American Catholic Dynasty Trashes US Capitol!

Of course we all noted the way Onward Christian Soldiers thing going down at the insurrection; but who knew that among the great unwashed lurked Buckley family princeling L. Brent Bozell IV? Whose father L. Brent Etc Etc had just been complaining on Fox News that people were unfairly accusing all Republicans of being insurrectionists?

I’m thinking Brent Four ain’t the most popular guy on the block. After he went Cap-trashing while wearing a sweatshirt identifying the school where he works, a flock of people contacted the FBI about him.

“[H]ere were hundreds of mourners, most with mouths uncovered, attending an illegal funeral procession for a revered rabbi who had himself died of the coronavirus.”

The virus was a punishment from God, [one ultraorthodox man] said — retribution for the Jews’ failure to obey religious rules. The only cure was religious observance …

[The] sons [of an ultraorthodox woman very sick from covid but not hospitalized] said they had no regrets. The timing of her death was set by God…

The New York Times provides snapshots of, and commentary about, the haredi death cult.

The First Step is Admitting You Have a Problem.

Sara Yael Hirschhorn tries to help Israel come to grips with its death cult.

With buses being torched on streets, violent protests against both law-enforcement and journalists, the inability to implement effective crowd-control over thousands (and the admission that such control was effectively impossible), the complete failure to keep institutions closed and public gatherings within specified regulatory limits, and the abdication of enforcement mechanisms, it seems clear that the State of Israel has lost control over the Haredi, or ultra-Orthodox Jewish, sector of its population. 

… The State of Israel [has] come to the conclusion that [it] simply can’t impose the conditions required by law on a resistant and sometimes violent community of over one million citizens. 

Because there is no equal application of the law, lawbreakers win widespread impunity, and with no political leadership to ensure the primacy of the law, the national interest, and the safeguarding of life, Israel is well on its way to being a failed state... This breakdown of social and political relations should be understood as a civil war.

… The behavior of the Haredim, both by their willful disobedience of COVID restrictions and their now violent resistance, is effectively spreading terror amongst the Israeli population at large. And other Israelis – Jews and Arabs, religious and secular, men and women, are afraid.

[This] is now a concerted, coordinated effort to embed and embolden Haredi autonomy from state control and wider social norms. Their leadership, if not all members of the community, understand that the subtext of the pandemic is about power.

[T]he ultra-Orthodox are no longer acting out confusion, negligence, situational difficulties, or financial and spiritual strain.

There is a deliberate intent and concerted effort to wield Judaism as a weapon and to use the Torah in service of a kind of Jewish terrorism – and no regard to who may get hurt. There should be no space for a death cult – complete with the glorification of the martyrs – in Israeli Jewish society.  

There’s ignorance. And there’s haredi ignorance.

“They don’t teach [their children] science so they don’t understand how viruses work… They don’t understand math so they don’t understand what an exponential function is. When you double or triple each time the number of people each person infects, then that is causing a lot of them to die and a lot of them to be sick, and along with them the rest of us.”

There’s our January 6 insurrection, and there’s the haredi insurrection.

“It has begun to dawn on people that we have basically an insurrection here of individuals who refuse to obey Israeli law, from what we mandate in the schools to health care and all down the line, everything that we do.”

That’s what it usually means. UD thinks it’s more likely that the content of this religious gesture in yesterday’s context is:

I’m about to tell another lie, Lord. Please do not rain brimstone on my head.

Life could be a dream, sweetheart.

You could live a whole life inside a dream, inside a small, every-moment-busied world where everyone looks and acts alike and you never have to think for yourself or imagine a free identity for yourself. You could live in a cult.

Imagine it: An entire life dictated by other people, by unquestionable holy writ embodied in an authoritarian figure, by – above all – the imperative to breed new adherents. Your entire adulthood could be engrossed in the production and maintenance of ten or thirteen children.

It seems a strange brew to those of us outside the haredi dreamlife; but if, for instance, you attend an ultraorthodox school “where the only history taught [is] Jewish history” — wrap your head around that: the only history — your bizarre ignorance and withdrawal, your almost comical hyper-provinciality, doesn’t seem bizarre. It constitutes an ordered, heavily populated world. It is the only world you’ve ever known.


Henry James put it best: “[T]he world as it stands is no narrow illusion, no phantasm, no evil dream of the night; we wake up to it, forever and ever; and we can neither forget it nor deny it nor dispense with it.” The most successful cults must labor every moment to tamp down the world as it is; they must illude and stupefy and above all keep their members very very busy every moment, so that these benighted people can, against all odds, forget, deny, and dispense with the world. Rabbis must keep alive among sect members the delusion that they are special, anointed, in exclusive possession of the truth. (“I grew up with a sense of the Haredim being special and different. …I discovered I’m not so special or different, that there are millions like me. That’s what suddenly made me say ‘That’s it, I’m leaving.'”) They must even include regular violence in that busy-making mix, as we see in constantly rioting haredim in Israel, and in the national shame here of ultraorthodox Jews having been part of the Capitol insurrection.

Anyone could have predicted that the current pandemic would shake a lot of haredim awake; its own authoritarian rabbis predicted it, which is why many of them defied – continue to defy – the lockdown and other covid-related laws of Israel. If you don’t keep your people very busy and very inside a dream, they are going to begin to perk up.

By definition, pandemics are global, unignorable, penetrative, realities; surviving them depends on a respect for and understanding of science — the great enemy of any cult. The despicable way in which panicky rabbis have endangered the lives of their followers by attempting to disallow simple health measures among them has certainly attracted the attention of the secular world; but it has also nudged awake the moral conscience of elements of their own sects.

“When I had a lot of time to think [under lockdown], the questions flooded up again,” [one ex-ultraorthodox woman said]. “Suddenly, the rabbis didn’t know what to do. They aren’t doctors.”

And now, as this New York Times piece notes, an already discernible drift away from ultraorthodoxy has become outright flight, so that Israel faces a strange and terrible social problem: The sudden emergence into its secular world of significant numbers of isolated, traumatized, and ignorant people. People who cannot do simple math, may speak only Yiddish, and have never used a computer.

[D]eserters often find themselves in a netherworld, estranged from their families, community and the only way of life they knew and, lacking a secular education, ill-equipped to deal with the outside world.

Most Haredi boys’ schools teach little or no secular subject matter like math, English or science.

Out of one netherworld, into another: An exquisitely horrible fate. But the Israeli state holds the blame: They let – continue to let – the haredi sect remain etherized. They have not been willing to awaken it, and now it’s nightmare time.

Mass Medieval Morbidness.

A spreader scene worthy of Bosch.

These days, it’s no joke: Don’t live in a theocracy if you don’t have to.


Sample headline in the Israeli press: WHEN FUNERALS ARE FATAL. Read the article accompanying this headline and ask yourself: Do you want to live in a country where tens of thousands of massed, violent fanatics, “helpless” in the face of God’s command that they and the unfortunates who live near them die of disease exposure, take to the streets undeterred by any government?

The Lin Wood, Esq., Padded Cell, Mercer University School of Law

Mercer’s rich benefactor, namesake of its Lin Wood Courtroom, has been told that in order to retain his law license he must “undergo a mental health exam.”

Wood, who is the Second Coming of Christ, fails to understand how some measly licensing entity dare approach Him, much less threaten his livelihood. His own family’s in on the persecution too… Everyone’s hanging him out to be crucified…

Last month, Wood shocked even his allies by suggesting former Vice President Mike Pence could face a “firing squad” for certifying the election results. Wood has allegedly referred to himself as the son of God and the second coming of Christ, and suggested Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts is a murderous pedophile.

At least Mercer University continues to emblazon His Holy Name on its walls! All praise that saving remnant, yea even faithful to the end of days!


[S]ecular critics fail to acknowledge the changes for the better in the haredi world (albeit at a slow pace), with more of them working and joining the army, and with the birth rate per woman dropping from 12 to around eight.


With covid putting these socially corrosive bitter-enders right there in everyone’s face (not that non-cultic Israelis haven’t been seeing haredim for what they are for years), it’s maybe possible that …

No. Things won’t improve. In Israel, things are much too far gone. As large numbers of haredim begin to drift away from their once-authoritarian rabbis, that country will find itself with scads of unemployable uncontrollable disaffected and often quite violent people out and about on its streets.

And speaking of domestic terrorists…

feast your eyes. We’ve followed the appalling haredim on this blog forever. We have zero sympathy for those, like Nathan Lopes Cardozo, who are shocked and devastated and yada yada because this wonderful pious group of Jews turn out to be – to a significant degree – a twisted cult, indifferent to their own well-being and the well-being of everyone who shares a world with them. “It’s enough with using the term ‘small group,’ because this is nonsense. These are thousands of rioters who are uninterested in Israeli laws, they look to rabbis and to no one else.” A former police chief speaks. Haredi leadership, writes Israel Hayom, is “not condemning the attacks on the cops, and thus are full participants in the [violence.]”

“[M]y whole world is falling apart; [it is] as if Judaism has become a farce,” moans Cardozo in the face of a community dying in droves from a pandemic they think doesn’t exist because they think science doesn’t exist; a community torching buses and injuring police as a state they loathe (because they don’t believe in the existence of states) attempts to make them recognize, much less obey, its laws. Cardozo didn’t notice any of this in the last twenty years or so? Didn’t notice the way they treat women, fail to educate their children, fail to contribute to Israel’s defense, fail to seek employment of any kind?

Weepy demands that the haredim suddenly transform themselves right now into rational law-abiding contributors to civilization are pathetic. More than any religion with which I’m familiar, ultra-orthodoxy displays the death-wish Christopher Hitchens believed a feature of all religions. He was wrong that this characterized all religions. But the evidence is in; he could have been writing about large portions of the haredim when he wrote:

[L]urking under it at all times in all its forms is a desire for this life to come to an end. For this poor world to be over. The yearning, the secret death wish that’s in all of it: ‘let this be gone!’

Another writer on Hitchens notes him singling out as characteristic of some religions “a contempt for all things of this world… [which amounts to] an acceptable form of nihilism.”

Even more insidiously, demands that the government of Israel stop enabling this miserable lot are hopeless. It will get much, much worse.

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