Ultra-Orthodox Jewish publications decried an affront to “Torah authority” after Israel’s government official in charge of managing the Corona crisis dared to call out a prominent rabbi.
Overshadowed in most reporting by the UAE normalization deal, Israel is currently embroiled in a coronavirus-related religious controversy that threatens to bring down the Netanyahu government.
There is great concern that the start of the school year in Israel will result in a spike in coronavirus infections. This is especially true among the ultra-Orthodox community, which has been less compliant with Ministry of Health guidelines than other Israelis.
Exacerbating the situation, one of Israel’s most prominent rabbis, Chaim Kanievsky (pictured, right), this week told students at Orthodox Jewish yeshivas to avoid being tested for COVID-19 so as not to be forced into quarantine and thus disrupt their religious studies. He also told the heads of yeshivas not to quarantine students who had come into contact with coronavirus carriers, as required by the Ministry of Health.
In response to the the rabbi’s disregard for the current health guidelines, Ronni Gamzu (pictured, left), the man in charge of Israel’s coronavirus policies, criticized Kanievsky for putting the entire ultra-Orthodox community at risk.
To put that in context, it’s kind of like what having someone criticize the Pope would be for pious Catholics. It’s simply unacceptable.
And so ultra-Orthodox publications the Yated Neeman daily took aim at Gamzu for “opening his mouth against…the rabbi…in an underhanded comment against Torah authority.”
The Orthodox newspaper HaDerech accused Gamzu of “blatant incitement against the ultra-Orthodox community and its leaders.”
The ultra-Orthodox community at large claims that the authorities are applying double standards in enforcing coronavirus restrictions among religious Jews. As evidence, they note that while the government is trying to prevent ultra-Orthodox mass gatherings, it continues to allow Israeli leftists to gather week after week in nationwide demonstrations against Netanyahu.