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sets NY on fire (while shouting “TRUMP! TRUMP!“), an Israeli journalist offers a fascinating account of the escalating violence among ultraorthodox Jews in both countries.

[T]here are elements in the Haredi community intentionally generating hatred of Haredim among the rest of the Israeli population.

The “barriers should be higher,” these people believe; you can never be too separatist a cult, and making people outside the cult loathe you guarantees they won’t get anywhere near you. So — refuse basic health measures in a pandemic. To be sure, a lot of cult members will die; but this is the will of God. What’s more important is that viciously, insistently, imperiling the life of anyone anywhere near you keeps appalled outsiders far, far away.

But is this really a good way to guarantee the flourishing of your cult?

Well, consider your hero, Mr Trump. He and his vile advisor, Giuliani, obsessively say and do things that make people sick. Does this work to repel and intimidate their enemies, so that they stay hands off?

No. Reason? There’s an escalation written into the strategy. Almost all human beings respond strongly to cruelty; cruelty attracts sadists, to be sure, but there aren’t that many sadists. Mainly there are normal people horrified by cruelty. When you intentionally generate hatred by your cruelty, you eventually mobilize some outsiders against you.

If you’re an ultraorthodox Jew, your cultic paranoia may overreact to these mobilized people and double down on that which sets you apart, which builds the walls higher: You look and act increasingly bizarre (your mohels refuse to stop sucking infants’ penises, for instance); your contempt for state authority becomes more and more violent; your disbelief in the germ theory of disease becomes more and more adamant.

Trump and the ultraorthodox take the path of escalating grotesquerie – and the grotesque certainly stops people in their tracks.

But then we recover from being stunned, and we realize that there are basic human values we need to defend against Trump and his battalion.

Unlike Trump and his battalion, we hate war. But we are willing to fight.

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