Reuven Rivlin at Bnei Brak coronavirus control room
Reuven Rivlin at Bnei Brak coronavirus control roomHaim Zach, GPO

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin warned of an “outbreak of hatred” against haredi Jews in Israel as a result of the coronavirus, noting a rise in anti-haredi incitement.

President Rivlin spoke during a visit to the coronavirus control room at the Bnei Brak municipality, as he met with mayors of haredi-majority cities on Sunday.

The president was briefed by the project manager for coronavirus response in the haredi sector, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Roni Numa, and Mayor of Bnei Brak Avraham Rubenstein.

The president then met with heads of haredi-majority cities including Mayor of Bnei Brak Avraham Rubenstein, head of the Kiryat Yearim local council Yitzhak Ravitz, Mayor of Beitar Ilit Meir Rubenstein, Mayor of Elad Israel Porush, head of the Rechasim local council Dan Cohen and head of the Emanuel local council Eliyahu Gafni. The meeting focused on measures to fight coronavirus and preparations for the winter.

“At a time of crisis like this, we must not point fingers at each other. We, the Jewish people, have bitter experience when it comes to stigmatization and criminal accusations of spreading disease.”

“Do not do to your friend what you would not wish to be done to you. Disagreement between us is not dangerous. What is dangerous is the incitement. It is a real danger, when as well as dealing with the coronavirus, the haredi community has to deal with the dreadful outbreak of the virus of hatred, every day.”

Rivlin also urged the public to continue to adhere to health guidelines, even when a vaccine is approved for use.

“Even when good and hopeful news about a vaccine is beginning to spread, we must not relax our uncompromising fight against the spread of the disease. The effectiveness of the vaccines that are being developed is still not clear, nor when they will arrive. We do not know the long-term effects of the disease or how quickly we will be able to vaccinate. We must continue to plan ahead as if there is no vaccine on the horizon.”

“One of the clearest conclusions so far from fighting the virus is the need to extend the authority you heads of local councils exercise. You, who know up close the communities who have entrusted you with the running of their towns, the daily routines of ‘real life’, you are the right leaders for this moment.”

Mayor of Bnei Brak Avraham Rubenstein said during the meeting: “As Mayor of Bnei Brak, the town most experienced in dealing with corona, while the virus is a problem, the greater problem is the deep fissure in our society between sectors over the last year. The president’s visit clarifies our strong desire, of the people of Bnei Brak and all those living in haredi towns, for mutual obligation. Bnei Brak believes in building bridges, not in constructing walls. Everyone knows that our sages taught that the Second Temple was destroyed because of baseless hatred, but we have some way to go to learn that lesson. Our national resilience depends solely on our unity, and boundless love. We are one people, and only together will we build a people to be proud of, overcome challenges and prevail with God’s help. This time, too.”