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The elephant in the room of Israel’s coronavirus crisis

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COVID-19 is a deadly virus. It can target our vital organs, choke our flow of oxygen and slow down our system.

But what it does to the body pales in comparison to what it does to a society. Just as with individuals, societies with pre-existing conditions are those that are most vulnerable. No one has escaped its wrath. However, if a nation already had a stress point, the coronavirus was likely to find it and exacerbate it.

Countries across the world have discovered this firsthand, with the virus pouncing of the soft underbelly of each to create unprecedented national health and economic crises.

Israel has been no exception. Its most glaring weaknesses have also been exposed.

Let there be no mistake: Israel’s COVID-19 elephant in the room is the country’s cloistered ultra-Orthodox community. No one else should be let off the hook. But it’s the Haredi failure to comply with government restrictions that has caused the coronavirus to spread in their communities at rates of up to eight times faster than elsewhere in Israel.

The recent record-pace vaccination drive to reach herd immunity has elicited a nostalgic nod to the days when ingenuity and mutual assurance were hallmarks of Israel’s “we’re all in this together” mentality that got us through wars and waves of violence.

But even if the national inoculation project succeeds it will not be able to erase the failures that preceded it, namely a rate of contagion that, relative to its size, was among the worst in the world and has now led to a third national lockdown in under a year.

It’s no secret that Israeli society’s most glaring domestic weaknesses are its unstable political system, the outsize influence of an insular ultra-Orthodox community resistant to........

© The Times of Israel (Blogs)

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