There needs to be a crackdown on the haredi sector

There needs to be a crackdown on the haredi sector

More ultra-Orthodox haredi schools are expected to open their doors throughout the country this week, despite the continued government-imposed lockdown that remains in effect until the end of the month.According to various news reports, Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, the prominent haredi leader, has given permission for additional Talmudei Torah, as schools are called in the Haredi sector, to open starting on Sunday. This despite a specific request by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week – transmitted to the rabbi via his grandson – that he order the Yeshiva heads to keep their institutions closed.What is happening in Israel right now with the Haredi sector is nothing short of a disaster. While making up about 12% of Israel’s population, haredim currently constitute almost 40% of the infections in the country. Jerusalem, Bnei Brak, Beitar Illit, Kiryat Anavim and other haredi-prominent towns are leading the country in infections, and a reduction in the rate does not look close.The fact that more schools are planning to open today in the haredi sector is just the latest act of insurrection we have witnessed since the beginning of the corona pandemic: haredim open schools when the government orders them shut; they don’t wear masks; they continue to congregate and hold mass gatherings in synagogues and at weddings; and they violently clash with police whenever forces come to try to close their institutions.In the face of this mass insurrection, the state is paralyzed and incapable of enforcing rule of law. This is intolerable. The fact that some kids go to school while others don’t makes no sense. The fact that some businesses receive fines for staying open just because they are in Tel Aviv while others don’t because they are in Bnei Brak is ridiculous.Netanyahu and the rest of his government have barely lifted a finger. The prime minister has called Kanievsky’s grandson and issued a few tweets, but that is it. And this despite the images that went viral on Thursday from Bnei Brak, where police experienced what can only be described as an attack by a lynch mob when their squad car was set upon by a haredi mob.What is happening with the haredim is a deep-rooted problem that dates back decades. It will not be solved overnight. But there are a few steps that can be taken immediately in the absence of true political and rabbinic leadership that consistently refuses to take a stand and put the insurrectionists in their place.

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The first step is to deploy police to haredi neighborhoods and forcefully shut down any institution – school, synagogue or mikva – that is operating against regulations. People who resist should be arrested. After that, every person involved should be fined, and those fines will need to be enforced.The second step would be to deny state funding to those institutions. A yeshiva that opens in defiance of government regulations cannot be allowed to receive money from the state. If they want to break the law, they will have to do so without state funding.Finally, politicians need to begin to take a stand. For now, only parties on the Left have spoken out against what is happening on the haredi streets. Politicians on the Right – like Netanyahu, Gideon Sa’ar and Naftali Bennett – are hesitant since they view the haredi parties of United Torah Judaism and Shas as potential partners in any coalition they might form following the election in March.Beyond simply upholding the rule of law, these steps are important in order to show the haredim that violating the law will not go unanswered, and that different sectors of society cannot make rules for themselves. Everyone needs to be treated equally in Israel – equal in privileges and rights, and equal when it comes to obligations.The haredim already get away with not serving in the IDF, and that needs to be solved as well. Until then, at least when it comes to coronavirus, they need to follow the laws and regulations that are issued by the government. Our lives depend on it.

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