among ultra-Orthodox youth, the virus of emancipation

ISRAEL, Bnei Brak - The busy junction of Rabbi Akiva street with Jerusalem street in the center of Bnei Brak on Monday, November 02, 2020. In September 2020, Israel became the country with the highest rate of COVID-19 infections per capita and therefore approved a second country-wide lockdown, the world's first at the time.  The ultraorthodox sector of the Israeli society has recorded the highest rate of infections, partly due to defiance of restrictions, but also due to crowded living conditions, and large religious or family-related gatherings.  Some Jewish Orthodox religious leaders opted for opening religious school and synagogues in defiance of the rules, reportedly in order to stop an accelerated alienation of individuals from the orthodox community.  (Jonas Opperskalski / laif)


Posted today at 1:31 am, updated at 5:10 am

Let’s call him Gadi, out of discretion. Neighbors discovered in mid-October this very round teenager, 16 years old, but not quite out of childhood. He had run aground on a passageway overlooking the courtyard of their apartment building in Bnei Brak, the capital, in Israel, of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, the haredim, those who “tremble before God”. Gadi was sleeping on an abandoned office chair.

From one neighbor to another, a video of him circulated to Tova Bouriya, an ultra-Orthodox mother of Yemeni origin, who runs a table and open rooms for teenagers in the street, at the head of her association, Tov Ba’lev. Mme Buryya contacted Gadi’s grandfather, an influential Sephardic rabbi, who made it clear, she said: “I can’t accept him as my grandson anymore. His father is constantly angry with him. Take it, please. “

Gadi smoked cannabis. Eldest of four brothers, he was fired from four yeshivot, religious schools. In modern secular Israel, a child is not exiled for this. But such a sanction is not uncommon for haredim, rebels against the rules that rule the world.

At Tova Bouriya’s, Gadi spent three days, confused, disoriented, in the small troop it hosts, surrounded by girls with pierced tongues and tattooed heads. He has since joined the boarding school haredi of Rabbi Yeshiel Peretz, who prepares lost children for military service, far north, in the wilderness, in the Golan Heights. From there, Gadi sends videos of him with farm animals. On the phone, he confides that his grandfather “Is happy to have found a solution which [leur] suitable for all. The most important thing for them is that[il] self[t] far and that[il] did not[t] no longer any link with his brothers ”.

Article reserved for our subscribers Read also In Israel, the coronavirus taken from very high by the ultra-Orthodox

Such shipwrecks have been increasing in recent months among haredim, 1 million people (12% of the Israeli population) united by faith, destitution and fear of the outside world. Normally there is always a parent, rabbi, teacher or spiritual advisor and of course the neighbors to make sure the teens don’t stray.

But the Covid-19 crisis and two confinements, in the spring and then in the fall, broke the immutable course of their life. Religious schools and synagogues have closed for a long time, as have prayer groups and ritual baths. It has become difficult to unite around the rabbis. Small-scale weddings and religious festivals have taken on a bitter taste. Left to their own devices, these young people are bored. Braving the ban, they venture onto the Internet and discover many things.

You have 77.23% of this article to read. The rest is for subscribers only.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here