Wednesday, January 27, 2021
Monday afternoon in the Knesset. MK Moshe Gafni of United Torah Judaism heads to the dais to speak about a bill advancing through parliament that will allow police to slap steep fines on schools that violate virus restrictions and even to close them by force.
He's visibly angry; his comments are short and to the point.
"You're only bringing this bill to vilify the Haredi public!" he declares.
Then he adds, in comments that would later go viral on Israeli social media, "It's not our fault! You, who sent us to live in such crowded conditions, it's your fault!"
It was an astonishing display that encapsulated the confused, anxious Haredi non-response to the crisis of rule-breaking that's setting parts of the community aflame, and the frantic search for someone to blame.
Ultra-Orthodox violations of the virus restrictions aren't new. The problem has simmered for months, occasionally waning as contagion rates and corresponding restrictions recede, then exploding again onto the public agenda when the pandemic returns with a fury.
But the latest round of anger and anxiety surrounding Haredi struggles with the virus has quickly reached a fever pitch. Recent days have seen violent riots in Haredi population centers as police moved in to enforce long-ignored health closures.
In the usually placid city of Bnei Brak, a municipal bus was torched to its metal skeleton after young Haredi men dragged the driver from the vehicle. Camera crews, including a Fox News team, were either attacked or had their vehicles vandalized in Haredi areas. Israeli news broadcasts have carried photogenic vignettes of such violence for days.
And throughout the rising violence, Haredi rabbinic and political leadership were nowhere to be found.
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