In recent days as Israel’s lockdown has taken hold and the majority of Israel’s citizens willingly remain home, despite the difficulties involved, understanding the severity of the Corona pandemic and the importance of doing their part to stop the spread of this deadly virus.
Two population groups, however, refused to adhere to the restrictions and stepped up their efforts to defy the government of Israel, the Health Ministry and even the police force by not abiding to the most basic restrictions of capsulated social distancing and the wearing of masks. Whether it was the violent, chaotic and vulgar demonstrations by the Black Flags/Crime Minister movements or the violent demonstrations by certain Haredi groups; both of these vastly different sectors, have shown the people of Israel that they deny the legitimacy of the duly elected government that provides them the very freedom to express their discontent.
To the average observer here in Israel, it seems as if some of them have simply lost their minds, acting as if reality and societal obligations have no meaning to them. They acted as if they are above the law, above the lockdown restrictions, and that they are entitled to privileges far beyond those to which the general Israeli population is entitled. A certain arrogance and condescending attitude could be discerned, a belief that their rights have priority over the rights of everyone else.
However, the greatest harm that they have inflicted on the government’s efforts to contain the Corona virus pandemic is the spill-over effect of their disobedient behavior on the general population.
As for the first group, with the national lockdown in effect; the violent, vulgar, and chaotic demonstrations by the Black flag/Crime Minister organizations, a conglomeration of anarchist and radical groups - despite media attempts to portray them as families and solid citizens. - have doubled down their efforts to create an atmosphere that questions the legitimacy of the elected government and its leader, Prime Minister Netanyahu.
This is all very much according to the playbook laid out by their parallel political forces operating in the United States against President Trump and conservative politicians in general. No one questions the right to loath a politician or a political party, no one even questions the right to demonstrate, but beyond their arrogance, what seems to have turned the tide of public support against them has been the realization that they have created an atmosphere that encourages others to disregard and oppose legal restrictions that are an issue of life and death.
The Spillover Effect can alter behavior even unintentionally. As we all know, speed kills.
With this analogy in mind, the spillover effect of the Black flag/Crime Minister demonstrators created a general atmosphere of disobedience and refusal to abide by the health related restrictions put in place to stop the Corona infection rate and the ensuing hospitalizations overwhelming local hospitals.
Many people have died, many who survived their hospitalizations will suffer from chronic medical issues for the rest of their lives, families were shattered; much of this due a general spillover effect of disobedience and a general feeling that if they - the demonstrators - can do what they please with immunity, then why should I remain locked up at home?
The result of the Spillover Effect has been a peak in the number of Corona virus related deaths and the recent imposition of strict lockdown restrictions. These radical demonstrators refuse to acknowledge, let alone take responsibility for, the deadly impact that their public disobedience and the ensuing spillover effect has had on the uptick of Corona virus related deaths in recent weeks.
As for the second group, it is imperative to refrain from making generalizations and blanket accusations against the haredi communities as a whole in Israel. With that being said, it has become wholly certain to observers, that certain haredi Rabbinical leaders and their communities whether in Bnai Brak, or Jeruslem, and even in the City of Ashdod; refused to abide to basic restrictions of social distancing and the wearing of masks and when confronted with police intervention to enforce these regulations, responded with violence and mayhem in their communities.
Let us hope there has been a change of heart. The prime minister spoke to some of the major haredi leaders to convince them to abide by the guidelines. With approximately a little over a third of all recent coronavirus infections coming from the haredi community and one in four of total hospitalizations, there has been a steep increase in the number of coronavirus related fatalities among haredim I found it beyond belief that there was a hassdic court that held a mass tish (hassidic gathering) after the Yom Kippur fast. This, sadly, is also the case in New York's haredi neighborhoods.
Observing the communal rejection in certain haredi communities of health related restrictions and the resulting increase in infection rates and even deaths, I realize that “Dina De Malchuta Dina” (one must obey the law of the regime) means nothing to certain haredi Rabbinic leaders. True, the timing of the lockdown is unfortunate for religious Jews, who have joyous Simchat Beit Hashoeva celebrations during the nights of Chol Hamoed and for whom Simchat Torah is a beautiful holiday spent hugging the Torah and dancing with it in packed synagogues. Why was the lockdown not imposed a month earlier? Religious Jews are not the majority in Israel and this period is one in which there is almost no school anyway and businesses are closed for the holiday, so that the educational and economic losses are less acute. It is also imperative to prevent the mass celebrations.
Many in Israel have lost the ability to look at the Health Ministry numbers and see the difference between those actual statistics and the fake news constantly given front stage, between medical agreement and voodoo theories. With the lockdown in force and with police forces taking a more stringent approach to violators of lockdown restrictions, let us hope that the level of arrogance and the ensuing spillover effect will slowly be a thing of the past
Ron Jager grew up in the South Bronx of New York, making Aliyah in 1980. Served for 25 years in the IDF as a Mental Health Field Officer in operational units. Prior to retiring was Commander of the Central Psychiatric Clinic for Reserve Solders at Tel-Hashomer. Since retiring has been involved in strategic consultancy to NGO's and communities in the Gaza Envelope on resiliency projects to assist first responders and communities. Ron has written numerous articles for outlets in Israel and abroad focusing on Israel and the Jewish world.
To contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.ronjager.com