Israeli Health Minister's Cure for COVID-19? The Messiah
“We are praying and hoping that the Messiah will arrive before Passover, the time of our redemption. I am sure that the Messiah will come and bring us out as [God] brought us out of Egypt. Soon we will go out in freedom and the Messiah will come and redeem us from all the troubles of the world.”
This remark was made by Health Minister Yaakov Litzman last week, after Yaniv Kalif of the Hebrew-language news website Hamal asked him whether Israelis will be forced to remain under lockdown until the holiday, which begins April 8. Litzman’s ignorant answer was not met with uproar.
Is it reasonable for a religious man, a member of the Gur Hasidic community, one of the most conservative Jewish communities in the world, to head the Health Ministry as it faces the biggest crisis Israel has ever known?
It goes without saying that the solution to this crisis will, of necessity, come from science, an area of human knowledge to which Gur Hasidim are less than sympathetic.
The truth is that Litzman’s unfortunate comment flew under the radar because Israel has always followed a twisted hierarchy: Religion is superior to secularism, and religious actions are more important than secular ones.
In normal times, this narrative leads to infuriating nationwide directives: We are subordinate to kashrut laws that raise the cost of living and make us captive to corrupt kashrut supervisors. Two parties prohibit half of the population from running for the Knesset on their slates, and not even the High Court of Justice has been able to force them to do so. For these same religious reasons, civil marriages are prohibited in Israel.
Even in times of crisis, religion rules. Secular group activities, including those with fewer than 10 participants, are shut down without a second thought and without asking too many questions. No studies, no extracurricular activities, no public readings, no foreign-language courses, no cultural events. But group worship is still kosher. Not even data showing that over a third of the coronavirus patients who were diagnosed with the illness last weekend had visited synagogues made a difference.