MEET MEA SHEARIM

BLOG  490

October 19,  2020

WISE ON THE MIDDLE EAST

Each week Robert L. Wise, Ph.D., explores the Middle Eastern situation, ranging from Egypt through Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and the surrounding area. Wise first traveled to Israel and the neighboring countries in 1968. Two of his sons taught in Jordan and Lebanon universities. Wise presents an objective view of the behind the scenes situation in these countries.

MEET MEA SHEARIM

During my first visit to Israel I walked down the streets of probably the oldest section of Jerusalem. Long before the state was proclaimed in 1948, Mea Shearim had few tourists and was the foremost Orthodox section in the city. Strolling down the street felt like entering a time warp where the most traditional Hassidic groups called home.

It appears that the quarrel over masks has now landed in Mea Shearim.

The very public and contemptuous refusal of a substantial minority of Israel’s 12 percent ultra-Orthodox community to honor the governing authorities’ rules and restrictions in the battle against COVID-19 defies explanation.  They are placing their own lives and others in danger. But still more inexplicably, if that’s even possible, they are contradicting the values they say they most revere and hold sacred. In so doing, they are committing hillul haShem, desecrating the Lord’s name.

Ultra-Orthodox Judaism builds higher fences to protect the would-be faithful from the challenges, temptations and pollutants of our flawed human nature. And yet this substantial minority is willfully costing lives, showing contempt for others, and reveling in it.

Judaism at its core is about the sanctity of life. Humanity was created by the Lord in His image. To save a life is to save the world. Acting morally is sanctifying the Lord’s name.

The grim, unavoidable conclusion is that this minority, amid its emphasis on full-time study of our holy texts, its unthinking fealty to its leaders, its focus on raising the fences ever higher, has lost sight of Judaism’s precious core; the very humanity and morality the ultra-Orthodox approach is intended to elevate.

The result is catastrophic for all of ultra-Orthodox Judaism, marked by its distinctive appearance. They are inevitably all lumped in together with its most extreme elements; and for all of Jewry.

Israel has long suffered intra-Jewish frictions, between the secular and Orthodox Jewish mainstream. This is a function of the deep entanglement of religion and state, with ultra-Orthodox politicians at the heart of most of the governing coalitions. Most ultra-Orthodox youths neither serve in the IDF nor perform alternative national service They live at least partly at the expense of the state and its taxpayers, while simultaneously denouncing them and in extreme cases even consorting with our enemies.

How does one explain not wearing masks to save others under these circumstances? Beats me.

My latest books:

I Marched with Patton: A Firsthand Account of World War II Alongside One of the U.S. Army’s Greatest Generals!

by Frank Sisson (Author), Robert L. Wise (Author)

You can find I MARCHED WITH PATTON on Amazon.

82 Days on Okinawa: One American’s Unforgettable Firsthand Account of the Pacific War’s Greatest Battle!

You can find 82 DAYS ON OKINAWA on Amazon.

by Art Shaw (Author), Robert L. Wise (Author)

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Filed under COVID-19, Jews, Judaism, World

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