Barak Hullman
Storyteller, Author, Podcaster, Entrepreneur and Community Leader

Those Blasted Haredim!

Ultra orthodox jewish man attend the funeral of late Rabbi Meshulam Dovid Soloveitchik, spiritual leader of the Mir Yeshiva, on January 31, 2021, in Jerusalem. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
Ultra orthodox jewish man attend the funeral of late Rabbi Meshulam Dovid Soloveitchik, spiritual leader of the Mir Yeshiva, on January 31, 2021, in Jerusalem. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Why do some Haredim not “follow the rules”? Why don’t they wear masks? Why don’t they stay home and shut down the shuls and yeshivas? Some people blame “the Haredim” for the continued spread of Corona in Israel. Just look at those funeral processions. 

There are people that say they don’t serve in the army; don’t work; they don’t pay taxes; they get handouts from the state; and still they have a huge influence in the Knesset. 

The Israeli media has hyped this up, which led to the police treating Haredim like terrorists and some extremists burning a bus in Bnei Brak. What’s going on?

Of course Haredim follow the rules. They follow their rules.

I’ve been davening in an old school, Mea Shearim Haredi shul seven days a week for over 20 years. While I’m not Haredi, I am part of the Haredi community where I daven.

Haredi life is a communal life. There is no alternative. Most of us continued congregating without masks and without alco-gel. The communal towel at the sink was replaced with paper towels. It’s back now.

The holiday of Pesach passed, entire weeks passed, Shavuos, shabbos after shabbos, Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Sukkos, Hoshana Raba, Simchas Torah. We continued going to the men’s mikvah. Somehow, we were still alive; healthy like before. There are sick old men in my shul that have had major surgeries and are on piles of medication. They spoke with me face to face; we ate together; hugged and shook hands.

The government told us that we were criminals. We kept davening.

Thousands of ultra-Orthodox men attend the funeral of late Rabbi Meshulam Dovid Soloveitchik in Jerusalem, January 31, 2021, (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

With so many different expert opinions I really don’t know what the truth is about Corona. But what I do know is that trying to make the Haredim stop davening and learning is a waste of time.

The Haredim were here before the Tziyonim, as they call them. They came from Europe in the 1700s. Many of them were supported by handouts from Jews in Europe. The secular Zionists came in the 1880s. The Haredi community opposed the Zionists from the beginning. 

Many Haredim today are the descendants of those same Jews. They live like their great-great grandparents. Some live in their same homes. They take pride in continuing the same lifestyle their forebearers kept. 

If Corona was Ebola my guess is that the Haredi community would close all of its shuls and yeshivas. For now Haredi life in my circles continues pretty much like before except now the government is doing the media’s bidding and “letting the Haredim have it.”

This has led to bloodshed and turned the police into an enemy. It has also given a generation of Haredim proof of what they have heard all along. The secular Zionist government wants Haredim to stop being Haredi. For them, maintaining their way of life is more important than anything the government can enforce.

About the Author
Barak Hullman studied for a PhD in Islamic History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (MA at Princeton). He made aliyah from South Florida in 1995. He lives in Jerusalem, Israel with his wife and their 7 children (all born in Jerusalem). Barak is the author of two books, Figure It Out When You Get There: A Memoir of Stories About Living Life First and Watching How Everything Else Falls Into Place and A Shtikel Sholom: A Student, His Mentor and Their Unconventional Conversations, available at bit.ly/barakhullman. He has two podcasts, Jewish People & Ideas: Conversations with Jewish Thought Leaders (guests have included Yossi Klein Halevi, Michael Oren, Natan Sharansky, Daniel Gordis and others) at jewishpeopleideas.com and The Chassidic Story Project at hasidicstory.com.   Learn more by going to barakhullman.com.
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