This Time It's Not The Charedim
During the initial rise of coronavirus in Israel, I wrote a number of posts critical of the charedi leadership for opposing health precautions, and their problematic theological claim that mass learning in yeshivos protects from contagion. While the charedi leadership was late to catch up to the reality of the situation, with tragic consequences in Bnei Brak and Jerusalem, they did eventually catch up. Now, the problem is everyone else.
Recently my wife and I were looking at Tel Aviv's magnificent Great Synagogue. Across the street was a cafe, which was so unbelievably crowded that we would have stopped to look in astonishment even if there wasn't a pandemic. Dozens upon dozens of people crowded around all the outside tables, and of course nobody was wearing a mask. It seemed to us that in the streets of Tel Aviv, there were far less people wearing masks than in the streets of Ramat Beit Shemesh.
My sister had an even more disturbing experience. She had to go a hospital for a medical appointment, and some of the hospital staff weren't wearing masks!
With the shockingly sharp rise of new cases in Israel - from less than ten new cases daily a few weeks ago, to over a thousand today - Bibi is starting to roll out new restrictions, and is talking about more to come. These will have harsh consequences of the livelihoods of many people. And it's because the existing restrictions are not being adhered to - or enforced. Yes, the police have started to give 500 NIS fines to people not wearing masks, but the enforcement of this is absurdly uneven - they fined a rebbe with a group of kids in a park in Ramat Beit Shemesh, while masses throng in Tel Aviv without any fear of fines.
Not that the blame lies solely with secular residents of Tel Aviv. I was horrified to read an article from a Rabbi Michoel Green of Chabad Jewish Center of Westborough condemning rabbis who rebuke people for not wearing masks. He declared that the Torah doesn't say that you have to wear a mask, but it does say that you mustn't shame people. How can anyone utter such nonsense? The Torah also doesn't say that you shouldn't drive under the influence of alchohol, but does that mean that one should berate those who rebuke drunk-drivers rather than berating those who drink and drive?! This rabbi has his Torah exactly backwards; the Torah is all about social responsibility, and wearing masks (and correcting those who don't) is very much part of that.
It's incumbent on all of us to behave responsibly. If you're not worried about your personal health, or even about the health of others who are more vulnerable, then think about the economic consequences of further lockdown - nearly a quarter of the population is unemployed!
And we wear masks not just for our personal safety, or even for the safety of others, but also to demonstrate publicly that we believe in being careful. It's simply madness that people are failing to do such an easy thing, regardless of the terrible consequences that they are causing.
(If you'd like to subscribe to this blog via email, use the form on the right of the page, or send me an email and I will add you.)