Ron 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.
Arrogance and the spill-over effect
In recent days as Israel’s lockdown has taken hold and the majority of Israel’s citizens willingly remain home, 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 refuse to adhere to the restrictions and have 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 be 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 groups, 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 act as if they are above the law, above the lockdown restrictions, and that they are entitled to privileges far beyond to what the general Israeli population are entitled to. They act out of arrogance and a condescending attitude as if 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 has been the spill-over effect of their disobedient behavior that they willingly and purposely inflict 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 have doubled down their efforts to create an atmosphere that questions the legitimacy of the government and its leader, Prime Minister Netanyahu. 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, yet 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 violently oppose legal restrictions that are an issue of life and death.
What Is the Spillover Effect? Spillover effect refers to the impact that behaviors or events in one setting or social arena have on other settings or social arenas. The most obvious example to clarify this idea, has to do with increased speeding limits on the superhighways. When Road No. 6 was built here in Israel, one of the major concerns had to do with the higher speeding limits placed on this road. For those of us who have worked in the field of road safety and motor vehicle accidents, it is well known that if one gets used to driving faster on one road, the result is an increased tendency to drive faster on other roads in which the speed limit is reduced. 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 has created a general atmosphere of disobedience and refusal to abide by the health related restrictions that were put in place to stop the Corona infection rate and the ensuing hospitalizations that were 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; all 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 and leftist demonstrators refuse to even acknowledge let alone take responsibility for the deadly impact that their public disobedience and the ensuing spillover effect has played 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; have refused to abide to basic restrictions of social distancing and the wearing of masks and when confronted with police intervention to enforce these regulations, have responded with violence and mayhem in their communities. With approximately a little over a third of all recent Corona virus infections coming from the Haredi Community and one in four of all hospitalizations, as have the steep increase in the number of Corona virus related fatalities among the Haredi; I find it beyond belief that many Haredi communities continue to have tishes (Chassidic gatherings) and behave as if there is no such thing as the Coronavirus pandemic.
This refusal of Haredi Rabbinical leaders to intervene by closing or limiting places of worship and Yeshivas, and a general refusal to appreciate the life and death implications of refusing to abide by non-Haredi authorities, reminds me of a prior period in which history has harshly judged Rabbinic leaders. As a second generation son of parents that both spent significant time in concentrations camps; I have always found difficulty in understanding the behavior and community related decisions of Haredi Rabbinical leaders prior to the dark days of the Holocaust and during the actual years of the Holocaust. Today, when I observe the communal rejection in certain Haredi communities of health related restrictions and the resulting increase in infection rates and even deaths, I get an eerie understanding of how this behavior evolved 75 years ago. “Dina De Malchuta Dina” means nothing to certain Haredi Rabbinic leaders, this is the arrogance and deadly implications of their behavior and decisions.
Many in Israel have lost the ability to look at the Health Ministry numbers and see the difference between actual statistics and fake news, 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, I pray and hope that the level of arrogance and the ensuing spillover effect will slowly be a manifestation of the past.
Seriously considering the “A” word?
With Yom Kippur just around the corner, it seems as if the time has arrived to do an honest Chesbon Nefesh concerning the inevitable “A” word; Aliyah. In a recent report by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) released earlier this year before the outbreak of the Corona virus pandemic in the United States, about two-thirds of American Jews say they feel less safe than at any other time in the past decade. The ADL survey also found that more than half of American Jews (54%) have either experienced or witnessed an incident they believe was motivated by antisemitism. Wherever you look; broadcasters, sports celebrities, local politicians associated with the Democratic Party, social media activists, Black Lives Matter’s leaders, street anarchists, are all expressing with immunity and zero remorse, a common and seemingly coordinated message of hatred towards Jews, that Jews are somehow responsible for the Corona pandemic, and that Jews are financially behind much of the anti-government violence sweeping the streets of America. The time tested and natural response by most Jews, albeit unconsciously has been to modify ones’ daily routine and avoid public displays of Judaism so as to minimize the risk of being targeted. This pretty much sums up the reaction of most American Jews, even if they continue to deny and refuse to admit it. The natural inclination to move on as if nothing has changed is a time tested response by Jews that seems to no longer be relevant or effective in dealing the wide-spread anti-Semitism that seems to have mushroomed everywhere.
An even more worrisome and related development has to do with the uptick of historical and factual ignorance of the Holocaust and Holocaust denial in general. In a survey of 1,000 American respondents across all of America taken by the Claims Conference, which coordinates restitution and reparations payments for Holocaust survivors and sponsors Holocaust education programs. It seems that more than one in 10 American adults under 40 believes that Jews caused the Holocaust. Out of 1,000 Americans participating in the survey, 11% of the respondents believed the Jews were responsible for the Holocaust, 15% said they thought the Holocaust was a myth or has been exaggerated, and 20% said people talk about it too much. Nearly half said they had seen Holocaust denial online, with 10% reporting that they had seen it often. Holocaust knowledge was particularly low in New York, despite the state having the largest population of Jews in the country. A total of 56% reported seeing Nazi symbols on social media, in their communities or both. Most respondents in New York could not name a single Nazi camp or ghetto, and 28% said they believed the Holocaust was a myth or has been exaggerated. Nearly 60% said they believed something like the Holocaust could happen today. If we keep in mind that for years schools have been teaching a curriculum that includes World War 2 and specifics about the Holocaust and that the Holocaust is part of popular culture- movies, plays, You Tube, etc.; then the only possible conclusion is, that the ignorance is deliberate and premediated. This is a very frightening and irrefutable conclusion.
For over a century American Jews have felt secure and content in the United States enjoying a renaissance of Jewish renewal and personal fulfillment, unseen in the modern era. However, very few of those American Jews actually envisaged a scenario where they would need to leave the United States and seek safety in Israel in their lifetime. For good reason, they felt very safe and comfortable as Jews living in America. This long standing sense of America being a safe haven for Jews has not only come under attack, but is creating an unsustainable denial that is surfacing on a daily level. The Corona virus pandemic has only escalated the ambivalence and diminishing confidence of Jewish communal life in America. The majority of American Jews live in metropolitan areas that have been badly hit by the Corona virus pandemic and the ensuing street violence that seems to be getting closer and closer to home as the weeks and months progress.
Historically, American Jews have held ghost apartments in Israel for years, just in case. Many have Israeli bank accounts to back up their finances in Israel and maybe keep an active nest egg for a rainy day, just in case. However, even those American Jews who have a foothold in Israel, or even a “toehold” never really envisaged a reality where they would actually need to seriously contemplate the move, leave the United States and make Israel their permanent and full time home as opposed to a home away from home. Wealth risk management strategy of the past, has been superseded by today’s strategy of; better safe than sorry.
In recent months, the head of the Jewish Agency Isaac Herzog, has been predicting a massive wave of Aliyah in the coming years. According to Jewish Agency predications, Israel can expect upwards of 100,000 Jews moving to Israel in the next two years and an additional quarter of a million Jews within 3 to 5 years. According to Jewish Agency Head Isaac Herzog, the catastrophic effect that the Corona virus pandemic has had on Jewish communal services and Jewish organizations has led to severe cutbacks and reduction in assistance to American Jews in all spheres of Jewish communal life; education, security, assistance programs to all age groups. While at the same time many American Jews see Israel today as a stable country with a superior health system totally accessible to all sectors of the population, a highly developed school system that is relatively inexpensive for all Israeli’s, and a political leadership that is advancing Israel’s strategic standing among Sunni Arab nations in the Middle East.
According to Herzog, we are experiencing a period of changing perceptions among Jews throughout the world that reflects the reality that Israel is emerging as the true center of Jewish life in the world. As demand increases to make Aliyah, the supply side will become more and more crowded creating a bottle neck that can make the process of Aliyah for many a non-starter. For those of you who sense that it’s now or never, then now is the time to make the first move and seriously consider the “A” word. Come while you can.
The New McCarthyism
McCarthyism, the name given to the period of time in American history that saw U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin produce a series of investigations and hearings during the 1950s in an effort to expose supposed communist infiltration of various areas of the U.S. government, the film industry in Hollywood, and numerous individuals that came to his committee’s attention. The term has since become synonymous for defamation of character or reputation by means of widely publicized indiscriminate allegations, especially on the basis of unsubstantiated claims or associations. McCarthy terrorized his targets and silenced his critics. Thousands of people lost their jobs as a result, often based on nothing more than innuendo or chance associations, While McCarthyism ended with the senator’s downfall, the term is highly applicable in the current political discourse and seems to have been given an eerie resurrection in today’s highly politically charged and politically correct environment in which the leftist-progressive agenda has become a guiding light for those embracing the New McCarthyism.
For many of us out there in America as well as in Israel, it has become almost impossible to listen or watch the news on the major channels without experiencing a deep sense of lingering rage accompanied by disbelief. It seems as if the new McCarthyism is everywhere. Societal chaos and economic collapse are stated as foregone conclusions and serves as the subtext of editorial narratives in the broadcasted media. From the very first word expressed by these talking heads we already know what’s to follow; the negative and sarcastic intonation, the smugness, the condescending know-it-all attitude, the obsessively meticulous analysis of every decision and every utterance of our conservative political leaders and demonization of conservative political parties in general; all aim for the same conclusion; deny legitimization, demonize, and instigate the forcible non-democratic ouster of our democratically elected leaders whether it be President Trump or Prime Minister Netanyahu. Blaming, shaming, confidently expressing unsubstantiated accusations, personal attacks, have all become staples of the daily commentary and interviews broadcasted day after day, from morning till nighttime with one overall goal; enforce unity of thought and suppress voices that disagree with the leftist-progressive agenda or be thoroughly vilified prior to becoming guilty by accusation. This is how the New McCarthyism has evolved from its earlier version during the 1950’s.
The media regurgitates over and over again their biased and opinionated viewpoints. They interview crackpot professors and similar minded opinion leaders who speak in the name of “truth” expressing a one-sided interpretation of the war on our democratically elected leaders. In actuality, the media not only regurgitate the lies, but willingly lead the parade without being held accountable or pay the price for spreading slander and lies about Trump, Netanyahu, and the Corona pandemic. Whether it’s about Black Lives Matter in America or the Black Shirts/Crime Minister Movement in Israel; the goals are similar; condone and openly support the ongoing violence, empower those ignoring Corona infection restrictions such as the wearing of masks and social distancing, and attack anyone expressing opinions that infringe on leftist and anti-conservative forces operating in the public arena.
As if this isn’t enough, America is under siege by leftist radical street thugs who are fomenting racial tension by violently attacking black and white by-passers, destroying and looting at will, killing and injuring police forces almost everywhere, turning the inner American cities into hell zones, with no respite on the horizon. In Israel, daily and weekly demonstrations against the continuing incumbency of Prime Minister Netanyahu have turned violent and have become corona infection mass events. The media have made every effort to present the demonstrators as enlightened citizens expressing their G-d given right to express their opposition. The broadcasted media have given unproportional coverage presenting these demonstrators as a mass movement despite their numbers being negligent electorally. We are told over and over again that these demonstrators have an inalienable right to demonstrate, irrespective of the current corona pandemic restrictions, and irrespective of earlier Supreme Court rulings on right-wing demonstrators that limited the frequency, the hours and demanded strict adherence to noise levels of demonstrators. The media never question the judicial hypocrisy by condoning these left wing and radical demonstrators despite previous judicial rulings that prohibited the very same type of demonstrations from the other side of the isle. The cumulative effect of this blatant hypocrisy, and the expanding polarization of citizens has been a loss of trust and faith in the political system and our political leaders. The underlying danger is not only for our nation as a whole but also a threat on an individual’s way of life. People have lost faith in their leaders, and have lost the belief that we the people are equal in the eyes of the law and that we are all subservient to the same rule of laws.
The era of the New McCarthyism where the leftist and radical criminals violently attack, maim, burn, and loot with immunity, where police forces are themselves under judicial and media harassment, has brought upon us a political twilight zone that empowers those that seek to destroy law and order under the guise of demonstrating. Today the right to demonstrate has become a sacred cow that cannot be interfered with under any conditions, unlike the right to pray in the manner of one’s tradition which has been severely curtailed everywhere. There is a growing perception among citizens whether in the United States or here in Israel, that the violent and undemocratic behavior by the leftist radical organizations are forcing the average citizen to decide for him or herself the boundaries of adherence to the law. Everyone is asking themselves, if mass demonstrations by Black Lives Matter in the United States or by Black Shirts/Crime Minister here in Israel are condoned and excused from adhering to any restrictions during the period of the Corona pandemic despite the onset of the second wave accelerating at a rate that may very well be out of control; than all other activities should be equally allowed, and if not, then the hell with corona restrictions, and the hell with the greater good of the nation as a whole. The expanding rate of infection is a direct result of the disparity of the law and selective enforcement, we as a nation may very well pay with our lives due to this breakdown. We the people should not blame anyone else but ourselves.
Corona Dissonance and Primal Rage
The coronavirus is invisible and undetectable as we go about our daily routine, but seemingly is everywhere. Despite the coronavirus requiring close contact to spread and infect, it has reached around the globe faster than any pandemic in history. With the race on to stop the corona pandemic, nations throughout the world are investing billions in research and hundreds of private companies and research laboratories are working on the development of a corona vaccine, yet despite this massive effort, we remain largely in an ongoing stage of uncertainty, where trial and error is still the dominant path towards an effective vaccine. With economies in a nosedive, and massive unemployment everywhere, the challenge for most political leaders has been to remain credible and believable as misinformation and disinformation outpace efforts to govern efficiently.
The broadcasted media and social networks have ignored the objective narrative above which would have allowed Israel’s democratically elected government to enlist the public’s support to contain the spreading infection of the coronavirus. Instead, progressive and radical organizations in cahoots with radical politicians are using an orchestrated and coordinated political campaign supplemented with the blind support of the broadcasted leftist media to create the illusion of a government in chaos, mismanagement, and corruption. Leading surveys show that many no longer think authorities can deal with the corona crisis leading to public resistance to lockdown measures even as record number of new infections are recorded daily. Many demonstrations with hundreds and thousands of participants have become corona mega-infection events, and the broadcasted media does everything in its power to ignore the clear and immediate danger to the participants and to the general public who will be infected by the demonstrators as they spread the disease.
In the streets of Jerusalem and other cities, thousands of radical leftists, anarchists, and paid protesters have been violently demonstrating over the past few weeks against the Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu obsessively reported with the help of the enlisted media to spread a false and make believe narrative of mismanagement and gross negligence of the corona virus pandemic. Many in the general public watching at home as this progressive perversion of truth is broadcasted around the clock are simply being scared into silence. A decent and honest debate about what’s best for the public is effectively ruled out. A general sense of fear and intimidation has overtaken the public discourse. Businesses, jobs, promotions are all prisoners of social media destroying honesty and the ability to question the progressive and radical narrative portrayed by the sympathetic media to the detriment of the general public. As the public is forced to accept the closing of schools, wedding halls, places of worship, restaurants; they are inundated with media reports showing thousands of demonstrators ignoring governmental and health restrictions demonstrating without wearing masks, without keeping social distance and in general defiance of what they have been led to believe is the proper behavior code to stop the spread of the corona virus. The contradictory message between what the general public is expected to refrain from and the freedom to resist these restrictions by demonstrators is creating emotional confusion and a growing sense of dissonance.
This immense gap between the objective reality and the broadcasted and false interpretation of reality has created a sense of dissonance against the false prophets that promote the progressive political agenda. Dissonance is the discomfort we feel when we are forced to accept conflicting beliefs, or behaviors that don't match our values. Our natural instinct is to resolve the dissonance by either justifying, downplaying or changing an inconsistent belief or behavior. We have an internal drive that motivates us to reduce psychological discomfort and create consistency among our beliefs. Ordinary people and the public at home aren’t frightened of Netanyahu. They are terrified of the mayhem and violence let loose in their streets. The use of residential streets in Jerusalem surrounding the Prime Minister’s residence as public bathrooms with demonstrators urinating and defecating where they please. Ordinary people are appalled at the mega-infection demonstrations, the random vandalism, and they want someone to do something about it. Ordinary people understand that we can't put the government on the front lines of the coronavirus war and then question its authority at the same time. They understand that we cannot hold the government responsible while invalidating its decisions. This is the confusion created by the radicals and anarchists, and the resulting dissonance will force ordinary people to choose.
The radical left and anarchists have convinced themselves to over-react to anything Netanyahu does. The never ending refusal to accept the will of the electoral public has resulted in demonstrations becoming more hysterical, more violent, more extreme, and a copy-paste of the “cancel culture” sweeping across America. Radical demonstrators have called for Netanyahu to resign, unrelated to his government’s management of the coronavirus crisis and everything to do with their inability to accept the public will and the democratic process. The rioters hope that the spiraling street violence will make Netanyahu look bad. In fact, it will most likely get him re-elected with even a larger electoral majority for the right wing parties. So what’s left for these radical demonstrators is nothing more than deep primal hate filling our TV screens night after night.
The deep primal hatred of Netanyahu, the democratically elected Prime Minister of the State of Israel in the last three elections and holding office as Prime Minister for close to two consecutive decades has no bounds. The broadcasted media, and social media have in unison permeated the public discourse trampling on every accepted norm of the basic concept of fairness. This deep primal hatred of Netanyahu empowers the anarchists and radicals to perpetuate the idea that everything is really much more simple if only Netanyahu would either go away on his own or if necessary by force.
While Netanyahu has clearly chosen managing the corona pandemic over politics, hospitals may reach a point where they have to choose between who lives and who dies. We can thank, the radicals, the anarchists, the empathetic media for the coming weeks in which the House of God will not be a local synagogue but a local hospital.