And that’s the only good thing to say about this predictable and pathetic chapter in Israel’s history.

It is not bigotry to suggest that Haredi leaders’ initial disregard for the orders of medical authorities, and their community’s seemingly blind adherence to those leaders, have undermined the painful efforts of everyone else to stem the spread of the virus.

Haredi insularity, Haredi disregard for health authorities during a pandemic, Haredi poverty and population density — all the factors that render them especially vulnerable to the virus, and through them everyone else — are ultimately a choice. There are no external or environmental factors forcing Haredim into their isolation and poverty, only their own cultural and religious commitments. They are therefore not only victims of their current circumstances, but also perpetrators, in the full light of day and of scientific warning.

So, nu?

So don’t hold your breath:

The crisis has sparked a deluge of speculation about the future of Haredi society. Would the rabbis’ manifest and almost wall-to-wall failure to grasp the new situation lead to new skepticism and individualism in the community? Would some question their faith? Would it drive more Haredim to secular education and the job market?

Much of this is wishful thinking on the part of critics who believe their case against the Haredi worldview has just been validated by impartial natural forces. But if that was how religion worked, then as Sigmund Freud once erroneously predicted, there would now scarcely be a religion left on Earth.

Actually, that is the way religion works – for non-cultists. You have your individual life, but you are also part of the body of a church, and you go to certain buildings once a week to worship with people who think the way you do. Ultraorthodoxy, on the other hand, is more of a bizarre hyperexclusive fraternity than a religious body.

To outsiders the term “Haredi” is usually a religious category, but one is hard-pressed to find a specific and agreed-upon theological idea that unites and distinguishes the Haredim. What they share, what defines their society as a distinct subgroup in a broader Israeli and Jewish culture, is a sociological idea.

Indeed, like any reflexively loyalist, outsider cult of no particular theological definition (and therefore no reflective morality outside of what authoritarian leaders tell them), the haredim responded stupidly and viscerally to the pandemic – as they would to anything that comes at them from the outside.

What they are is world-rejectionists; so they did their thing. They rejected the world.

The initial response of Haredi leaders wasn’t a rejection of science, but something less coherent — a stunned refusal, an instinctive rejection of the enormity of what was being asked of it.

It’s hard to think of a more condemnatory judgment of a group of people – a group of people who hold themselves ethically and spiritually superior to everyone else, who pelt with stones eight year old girls and call them whores because their skirts aren’t long enough, and everyone lets them get away with it …

And then there’s this, describing the criminal, er, stunned refusal of a powerful rabbi:

Kanievsky, who would later reverse his position and explain that he hadn’t yet heard about the pandemic when he refused to close the schools, “showed his weakness” as a leader, said [one observer]. “But [in the eyes of haredim] that weakness also reflects his holiness and grandeur, his total investment in the Torah.”

Ya follow? We love him even more because of the pious obliviousness to worldly matters that wiped out our family.

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