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.