Rebels Without a Cause

Rosh Hashanah day, dressed in sportswear, my husband, daughter, and I headed toward nearby Frishman Beach in Tel Aviv, ready for our lockdown-permitted exercise walk. What greeted us at the beach was disturbing.

Under one of the sun covers, in the guise of a rally, was a rave party. Moving skin to skin, breathing in each others’ faces, was a gaggle of revelers radically defying not only corona rulings, but also corona common sense.

Granted, there were only a small amount of dancers, numbering perhaps 30 in all, although later reports claimed numbers of 100, and even 200 “demonstrators.”  Perhaps we arrived too early or too late to witness the entire mock event, but all I could say was “so selfish.” My husband defined it perfectly: on the surface, this particular form of civil disobedience appears non-violent, but indeed it is the opposite. After all, if even one of the partiers has corona, and spreads it, and if a few recipients get bad cases, they would not only be endangering themselves, but also those in their personal sphere, including the doctors and nurses risking their lives to save them.

What a far cry from the demonstrations at Rabin Square back in March, where two-meter distanced stickers and exes measured and delineated where each serious demonstrator should stand.

What made the whole spectacle even more farcical was the fact that the beach, against all regulations, was completely open. All along the Tel Aviv coast were people easily distancing themselves on the shore’s generous expanse, and in the waves of the ocean’s even greater immensity, turning the so-called “demonstrators” into rebels without a cause.

On our exercise walk, which included Park HaYarkon, there was not a law enforcer in sight.

Recently, I was made privy to the plans of a Haredi woman living in Jerusalem. Dressed in severe black clothing from chin to toe, she seems to be the polar opposite of one of those bikini-clad ravers, but, in actuality, they are identical. The plan of this individual over Rosh HaShana was to climb onto an organized bus bound for Mount Meron, stay two nights at a hotel, pray for a husband, and then return on the same bus at 2 o’clock in the morning after the holiday. Why so late? The answer is simple: to reduce the chance of getting caught. After all, this entire venture is strictly forbidden during the current lockdown: bus, hotel, Mount Meron, the whole kit and kaboodle. And unlike the beach party, wrong as it was, the pairing of bus and hotel presents an even greater risk:  germs trapped indoors as opposed to the air flow of the great outdoors.

Did the crooked bus driver and passengers make it past the roadblocks? I don’t know. What I do know is that this particular woman moans that “the government blames us (the Ultraorthodox,) and yet we are blameless.”

Hello, is anybody home?!

Then there are the other mock demonstrators, also kindred spirits to the ravers: those in the Haredi community who contrive to redefine prayer services. By calling  them “demonstations,” they hope to get around synagogue rules and regs. Forget the fact that unregulated synagogue gatherings have been shown to be corona hot spots, and that they themselves would be the first victims (please refer to the “is anybody home?!” comment above.)

Ditto the Tel Aviv bars with tables and chairs on top of one another, no masking or distancing in sight, whose repeated offenses indicate that there is no enforcement, and that they therefore have nothing to fear (other than corona, of course, but who cares about that?!)

And don’t even get me started on those stuck at the border of Belarus, who gave the middle finger to both the Israeli and Ukrainian authorities, headed off to Uman, and are now blaming those very same governments for their current plight, comparing themselves to “refugees” and whining about being abandoned.

We are all of us human, and therefore none of us are perfect at keeping the current strictures. It is understandable that, both in Israel and worldwide, corona fatigue has set in. But there is a huge difference between imperfect compliance and intentional rebellion. Both corona numbers and corona deaths have significantly risen in this country, to more than double what they were during the last lockdown. This is a concrete fact, not a conspiracy, and those who cherish human life would do well to remember that.

Now, more than ever, when we pray to be inscribed in the Book of Life, let us do our bit and remember that we are not merely passive recipients of divine goodwill, but, according to our tradition, G-d’s partners in the holy task of Pikuach Nefesh, safeguarding life.

G’mar Chatimah Tovah!

About the Author
Brynn Olenberg Sugarman was born in New York City. She graduated from SUNY Binghamton with a BA in Creative Writing and from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem with an MA in English Literature. She is the author of "Rebecca's Journey Home," an award-winning children's book. She is also the author of "Midnight at the Taj Mahal," and "Speechless." Brynn lives in Tel Aviv with her husband, Dov, where she enjoys writing and painting. She is passionate about Israel advocacy, travel, vegetarianism, animal welfare, the environment, archaeology, and children's literature, and is fascinated by the notion of time travel.
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