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Ultra-Orthodox Jews are not the public’s enemy

“Killed and will kill people en masse,” “Our blood is on his hands,” “delusional and dangerous” – these harsh remarks posted on social media in the past few days refer not to some arch-terrorist or a terrorist who was captured on his way to murder Jews, but about Health Minister Yakov Litzman, a haredi Jew. Jews were the ones who wrote them.

This might not be a popular opinion these days, but Litzman has been a good health minister. He has boosted the list of government-subsidized medications by millions of shekels; added medical equipment; built hospitals; introduced reforms that benefit the elderly and programs like subsidized dental treatment for children.

Now, in the midst of a global pandemic, a pandemic that will go down in history, a pandemic that has wreaked havoc in powerful Italy and Spain, the healthcare system in little Israel is in good shape. If there were thousands of bodies here, you would be blaming Litzman, wouldn’t you? But there aren’t, so give him some credit.

You don’t agree? That’s fine, but tell the absolute truth – isn’t the criticism of Litzman especially venomous because of his Yiddish, his beard, and his attire?

The criticism of him indicates something about the public’s feeling about everything that is happening in haredi city of Bnei Brak. There is a feeling that it goes beyond concern for the city’s residents themselves. The discourse about Bnei Brak reeks of prejudice.

If there had been an outbreak in the relatively secular Givatayim, no one would call the residents “polluted” or “infected,” or call to “lock them up in their ghetto.”

One young haredi man tweeted on Thursday:

“I went to a supermarket in a non-religious area. I was standing in line, with everyone, myself included, keeping a distance of two meters or more. An old man who was standing in front of me with his wife turned to me and complained that I was too close to him. I told him I was more than two meters away, just like everyone else. He answered, ‘Yes, but you’re haredi. You need to stay farther away.'”

Even if the criticism is just, the venom is dangerous.

Header: Israeli police arrest an ultra-Orthodox Jew during protest against the government | Photo: AP / Mahmoud Illean

Original: Article by Yehuda Shlezinger Published on 04-03-2020 in Israel Hayom