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.

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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.”

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.

‘The Haredim are believers in ways that we are not. In this case, it killed many of them. But whether we, or they, are living in closer fidelity to tradition remains to be seen.’

But it isn’t only romantic suicide, lad; it’s romantic homicide.

Throughout yet another opinion piece urging us to admire the haredim and castigate ourselves because we’ll never be the Jews they are, the writer stresses only the self-harm the haredim generate by breaking virus containment laws. It killed many of them. Yes, and continues to do so.

And, because they’ve carried the virus to the rest of us, it is killing many of us.

See?

The writer doesn’t see. His argument seems to be that because the haredim believe divine promises to the point of communal decimation, they deserve a kind of backhanded admiration, rather in the way one has to admire the fervor of Mad Mike, even if his belief that his steam-powered rocket would make him famous rather than dead was flawed.

‘Whatever you think of the media, it’s hard to argue with this: the haredim comprise just over 10% of Israel’s population and constitute over a third of all corona cases in the country. The Israeli army is deployed in their cities, like Bnei Brak, although most of the inhabitants don’t go to the army. Our soldiers are distributing food parcels to the ultra-Orthodox, on our tax dollars, although many of the recipients have never worked, nor paid taxes.’

Commentary, Jerusalem Post.

‘Yes, we Haredim actually believe that children’s learning Torah maintains the world. Yes, we sincerely believe that Torah study protects Jews no less than army service.’

Yes, we know you do.

The question is why any rational human being, let alone a government tasked with protecting citizens, listens to a word you say.

Israel has, post-coronavirus, so much to answer for.

You have to go to Engels’ ‘Condition of the Working Class in England’ to grasp the living conditions of Israel’s haredim.

See Engels here. Compare the haredim of Israel, in the age of Covid 19.

I’m the eldest of 11 children, and it’s not even an especially large family. In my parents’ building in Beit Shemesh, there are around 200 children and lots of elderly folk. The option of assisted living or retirement homes barely exists… These are families with 10 to 15 children. Some households have children who are already married with their own kids, so there can be 20 to 30 people living in one home. The average size of a Haredi apartment is 60 to 70 square meters [700 square feet]. It’s like a small ghetto. On a normal day, everyone is out studying, but these days everyone is together 24/7 with nothing to do. There is no internet, no smartphones, no T.V., no leisure books, nothing. You can’t leave the house…

How did a modern democratic state let this happen?

When, in a few decades, half of Israeli children come from homes like these, Israel can give up any pretense of being a modern democratic state.

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Fun detail from this interview:

[A haredi website] called “Mevaser” … last week published a whole page of photos of [virus victims] from Borough Park, Williamsburg, and other places – with the women blotted out in black.

Dead in life; dead in death.

‘“It is actually incredible that you have a health minister whose underlying ideology, whose frame of reference, is the ‘us versus them’ mindset” that haredim feel towards less religious Israelis, [Yehoshua] Pfeffer said.’

Hey, the health minister himself flouted the rules and got the virus.

Nothing’s ‘incredible’ when your country’s ruled by theocrats.

Israel’s Haredim = UD’s High School Hippie Boyfriends

All they do is hang out, fuck, and demonstrate against the government. They’re even draft dodgers! It’s all so ‘sixties.

For the Relief of Unbearable Haredim

I’ve talked a lot on this blog about the corrupting effect of big pharma money in the American university, especially in the hard to define and hard to diagnose area of depression. I’ve talked about the mindless defensiveness on the part of some academics to growing evidence of the largely placebo effect of anti-depressant pills for millions of people who take them.

But I’ve never seen anything like what some Israeli academics are doing with these pills when a rabbi brings to their office a haredi Jew who does not conform to haredi culture.

[Professor Omer Bonne sanctions] prescribing antidepressant pills from the SSRI family (most commonly used for the treatment of depression, anxiety disorders and some personality disorders ) for yeshiva students who masturbate excessively, or have sexual relations with other men, yet do not suffer from depression.

Bonne justified the use of these pills by pointing out that their side effects reduce sexual urges; he argued that such medication preempts possible destructive conflicts between the men and their surroundings, and the pills might also preempt conditions of depression.

A prominent psychiatrist cited in the report justified the use of lithium – medication ordinarily used for bipolar disorders – in certain cases where a man or woman suddenly decides to stop observing religious commandments, or to break up the family unit. The psychiatrist said that in some cases, such behavior derives from conditions such as mania.

Bonne and other psychiatrists confirmed that some of the patients come to clinics accompanied by rabbis or various “supervisors” associated with yeshivas. Sometimes, the religious pupils’ families are not notified of these visits. The psychiatrists confirmed that the rabbis or supervisors are on hand when patients are examined.

This article, in Haaretz, is difficult to read. It evokes the world of 1984, and Brave New World, in which closed and repressive cultures enforce conformity with chemicals. A senior psychiatrist interviewed for the article says: “I am stunned that people do that.”

Better my kid should suffocate to death in agony than a woman touch him.

Soldiers of the Israel Defense Force’s Home Front Command were physically and verbally attacked by ultra-Orthodox Jews while they were assisting in searching for dead and wounded in the deadly crush during Lag B’Omer celebrations at Mount Meron, the IDF said late Saturday.

“We entered the gravesite to search for injured people and suddenly a commotion began that there are female soldiers in uniforms who are touching the wounded,” a soldier told Army Radio earlier.

“They started to kick and spit on us. The female soldiers were kicked, spit on, and punched from every direction,” the radio station quoted the soldier saying. Hebrew media reports said five female soldiers were targeted.

“[Multiple reports indicate that there was] immense pressure by religious lawmakers ahead of the festivities to ensure that there would be no limits placed on the number of attendees.”

“Haredi politicians and their political allies” put immense pressure on civil authorities to do what everyone except the benighted haredim knew was madness: Pack hundreds of thousands of excited people, late at night, inside a space intended to hold a few thousand. Israel’s “worst-ever peacetime disaster” has laid bare the fact of Israel’s ongoing decline into a hapless third-world theocracy.

With this year’s event taking place in the shadow of COVID-19 — having been canceled last year because of the pandemic — consultations involving the Health Ministry, police and other officials concluded that no more than 9,000 people should be allowed to attend. [One hundred thousand attended.] Agreement to this effect was never brought to the government for approval, however, because of infighting among ministers on other matters… Meron mountainside has essentially become a kind of extra-territorial zone, over which the government has for years failed to fully impose its authority.

There’s definitely humongous huffing and puffing this morning about the scores of state officials under investigation blah blah but of course the people suicidally massing all over the place barely acknowledge – and certainly detest – the state, and certainly intend to ignore all of its reports, directives, laws… Whatever bizarre and distasteful secular emanations waft toward them, Israel’s whirling dervishes intend to keep whirling exactly the way they always have.

I mean, does it seem strange to you that in all the finger pointing no one is even considering pointing a finger at the people responsible – the rabbinical leadership of this haredi sect? That’s because it’s hopeless – Israel has allowed itself to generate huge populations of hostile irrational reactionary cultists; it has, in fact, allowed them to establish significant stretches of Israel as their own “extra-territorial zone.” Israel is becoming a failed state.

Terse, matter of fact, rational.

And for that reason devastating.

Israel is one of the few countries whose fundamental character is imperiled… Modern Israel cannot survive [Haredi cultural regression]—there will be no one to fund it—unless the Haredim fundamentally change their behavior and worldview, of which there are no signs. It is more reasonable to foresee that, if anything, the process will be accelerated by secular flight…. [Even small changes will draw from the Haredim] charges of “anti-Semitism” and probably rioting in the streets.

Dan Perry lays it out in eighteen stark paragraphs: Israel is a democracy rapidly transitioning to a rather violent theocracy. One of its most powerful political parties simply rejects the authority of the state; suicidally and homicidally ignores covid laws; and bars women from running for office because public life of any form “isn’t their natural place.” If women must go outside, gender segregation and heavy physical covering is a must.

Established as a secular democracy, Israel is well on its way to making Saudi Arabia look enlightened. Yet because its current cultural grotesquerie has been a gradual process, people don’t really see it. They don’t see the secular brain drain, the out-of-it authoritarian rabbis, the masses of illiterate children. Maybe they take in the endless court judgments against appalling haredi behavior; but then they miss the fact that the haredim ignore all such judgments.

The Jew with literary history’s most fantastical, malignant imagination – Kafka – could never have imagined contemporary Israel. It exceeds even his mental grasp.

EasyJet: Systematic Degradation, Plus Your Choice of One (1) Hot Beverage

Again and again on EasyJet flights, stinky ungodly women are forced to change their seats so as not to infect any pure ultraorthodox men who may, through the machinations of some diabolical force, have been seated next to them.

If the women refuse, other passengers — far from, say, acknowledging overt gender discrimination — put pressure on the women to make them move.

Of course this goes on all the time on EasyJet and non-EasyJet to-and-from Israel flights, but only occasionally does a woman resolve to turn down, for instance, the one cup of free coffee that EasyJet offers as compensation and instead contact IRAC, which sues on her behalf and makes all sorts of money for her. The discrimination is so comically obvious, and enjoys so wide an audience, that when these particular suits come forward, airlines simply pay up. The latest beneficiary is Melanie Wolfson.

Since this is such a slam-dunk, UD proposes the following source of income in these uncertain covid times: Groups of women organize themselves to “seed” selected haredim-heavy flights. Inevitably, on any given flight, a number of these women will be seated next to out-of-my-sacred-space-godless-harlot men. Every one of these women files a lawsuit (knowing what will go down, the group will include someone designated to film events on board) and thereby earns for herself and her co-conspirators compensation in the tens of thousands. Takes more time to make than a coffee, but is more satisfying, and lasts longer.

Starving Your Kids for God

Haredi children are kept segregated from the rest of society; over a quarter suffer from food insecurity, according to the Israel Democracy Institute. [Haredim] hold that this lifestyle is the fulfillment of God’s commandments.

“The scandal of the evangelical mind is there is not much of an evangelical mind… The scandal of the evangelical mind seems to be that no mind arises from evangelicalism.”

Michael Luo, in the New Yorker, quotes from Mark Noll’s The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, thereby entering the timely … no, urgent question of why so many American evangelicals believe so much socially destructive bullshit. As Luo notes, “Recently, some pastors and other evangelical leaders have begun to express alarm at how unmoored some members of their congregations have become.”

This lack of mooring is no innocuous weirdness: “During the Trump era, it became clear that the wasting of the evangelical mind could even have dire consequences [for] American democracy.” As in, the terrorist assault on the Capitol was way evangelical Christian.

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Once again UD will point out that a cult is a cult is a cult: Luo’s description of the evangelicals is point by point a description of ultraorthodox Jewish cults – you need only switch a few words:

Fundamentalists also believed that they needed to separate themselves from an increasingly secular society. All of this had a dampening effect on Christian thinking about the world: there was little need to pay attention to history, global affairs, and science, because the present epoch would soon pass, ushering in Jesus’s return; saving souls was all that mattered. “Evangelicals pushed analysis away from the visible present to the invisible future,” Noll writes. “Under these influences, evangelicals almost totally replaced respect for creation with a contemplation of redemption.”

It’s utterly haredim (a contingent of ultraorthodox Jews was also, by the way, Cap-trashing): The vulnerability to any conspiratorial swill; the separation from any world outside themselves; the ignorance of history, global affairs, science; the hopped-up slopping about in end times. And of course the propensity toward violence.

Solution? Hey, “the cost of education for haredi boys is covered by the [Israeli] state, in spite of the fact that they study no core state curriculum after age 13. No math. No science. No English.” The system of ultraorthodox yeshivas here in the States is an exact replica, folks. The closed world of Jewish and Christian fundamentalism threatens democratic culture very directly, yes? But as long as the state takes no interest in the education of these lost souls (fear: they’re violent; cynicism: they’re powerful voting blocs) we remain at their mercy.

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