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Die and Don't Learn?!
It's unbelievable. Instead of "live and learn," people are dying - continually - and the lessons are not being learned.
Over the last year, charedi communities suffered a wildly disproportionate rate of deaths from Covid due to their opposition to subjecting themselves to government-mandated health precautions. Just over a week ago, 45 people were killed in Meron due to charedi opposition to subjecting themselves to government control and professional standards. And now, two people were killed and hundreds injured when unsafe bleachers collapsed in a chassidic shul - which was operating without licensing, against warnings from the fire service, and which had signs placed by the municipality forbidding people to enter. Incredibly, the bleachers were held up by a makeshift collection of beams tied together with wire - without any screws!
A number of people have sent me an article from Rabbi Yair Hoffman, decrying the charedi laxness with regard to safety. Yes, it's good that he's not doing the murderously negligent Daas Torah response of calling for strengthening Torah study and Ahavas Yisrael. But Rabbi Hoffman - who sometimes writes sensible articles, and sometimes wrong-headed and downright silly articles - makes the same mistake as that which led to all these senseless deaths in the first place. He writes as follows:
We have Hatzolah organizations. We have Zaka organizations. We have Gamachs. We have almost every conceivable chesed organization – from bris gemachs, shalom zachar schnapps gemachs, we also need one more thing.
We need to take charge of our own safety as well. We need to hire crowd control experts for our levayos, for Meron, for our buildings, for our wedding halls.
There are experts who know what types of tweaks are needed in order to save human life. There are people, educated people with Phd degrees, that can survey and inspect any venue or building and can determine its safety and structural integrity in order to save lives and to avoid tragedies.
What we need to do is have the Chareidi world engage these experts. We should hire them and bring them down to our buildings and levaya venues, to our chasuna venues, to our shuls, and to wherever else we gather. We need to bring them to Meron for recommendations. It shouldn’t be the Israeli government or the police or the IDF, it should be us.
No, no, and no!
What Rabbi Hoffman doesn't grasp is that "charedim taking charge of their own things" is exactly what causes these disasters in the first place!
It's not enough to respect professional expertise. You have to respect being a part of a system of civic law.
This is for two reasons. First of all, you're not going to know exactly what kind of expertise you need. It's not just crowd control. There's many, many different things that potentially have to be taken into consideration. When we applied for our operating license for the Biblical Museum of Natural History, there were endless discussions as to what exactly we do at the museum, and what kinds of consultants and expert opinions and authorizations were required. It's all part of a immense system set up for public safety; it's not something that some askan is going to be able to direct.
Second, there is the matter of enforcement. Once you leave it up to askanim or event operators to be in charge of safety, it's a recipe for disaster. There is simply too much self-interest involved. If the private consultant states that there is simply no way that the event can take place in a safe way, are they going to listen to him and cancel the event, or will they shop around for someone else who will give a different opinion - perhaps in exchange for a gift on the side? After all, what are the odds of something going wrong?
The charedi community needs to understand that they need to respect civil law. They need to be part of the State. They need to mature and take responsibility, which includes recognizing their limitations and the need for state apparatus.
Right now, all Israel is in mourning over the deaths caused by Hamas. Yet these are not even a tenth the number of deaths caused by charedi separatism over the last year. And while it's easy to get people to take action in the face of threats from Hamas and Iran, it's considerably more difficult to take action about the long-term, gradually developing existential threat from an increasingly large sector of the country that does not care about national responsibilities vis-à-vis the economy, the army, and so on. It's crucial to take the right lessons from the tragedies of the last year.
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