I Inhabit a Covid-19 Minefield
Wednesday at 3:50 pm
But first, a disclaimer of sorts:
No imagination would ever mark me as a religious Jew. Yet I regard myself a Jew , and –though a non-observant one—-all in all,proud to be one.
Sure, you will never spot me in any house of worship, yet:
I am a Jew who worships the tolerance of belief systems and ideas that I do not share, so long as those beliefs are themselves not intolerant.
I am a Jew who adheres to Edward O. Wilson’s postulate that the practice of religion– along with its concomitant rites and rituals– is our evolutionary inheritance, embedded deeply into our genome by the necessity of our ancient forbears to find explanations of natural phenomenon, the cosmos and life itself. No matter that the wisdom of faith stems from ancient ancestors who didn’t know the world was round, that germs existed, that evolution was true, that the heliocentric theory isn’t really just a theory, or that too much schmaltz in your diet wasn’t good for you.
I am a Jew who defends the rights of even the religions that slip away from from the banks of mainstream convention so long their actions are not deleterious to fellow homo sapiens as well to the animal, vegetable, mineral and climatic environments of our planet.
I am a Jew who defends the rights of fringe cults, sects, movements, churches, factions, etc., so long as they are not lunatic fringes whose tyranny strangles the freedoms of their own congregants.
In short, I believe in the freedom of religion and, at the same time, the freedom from religion, notwithstanding the fact that I am a citizen of a country where a known serial killing pedophile probably has a better chance of becoming president than an atheist does.
Finally, before I go on, I hereby declaim that I am a Jew who is fervently not anti-Semitic. Now, on to my minefield analogy.
I’m sure you’ve read in the papers that Benjamin Netanyahu (he of the literal transporting of dirty laundry to Washington D.C and the hiding of metaphoric dirty laundry in Israel), owing to a alarmingly dramatic Covid-19 spike in Israel, recently ordered a lockdown of the entire country, much to the objection of a certain crowd who, ironically, happens to normally crowd into Netanyahu’s supporting choir. And naturally–as in our beloved country– the mourning, scorning howl and growl issues from the patch of population that formed a disturbingly large chunk of the spike’s progenitors:Ultra Orthodox Jews. . As with America’s maskless Trumpist dissenters, their outrages expectorate droplets thronged with viruses of bad intention–indeed, often lethal intention.
Paradoxically, it was has been the Ultra-Orthodox men (who claim they churn out alarming surpluses of children in order to “replace the Jewish population lost in the holocaust”) who–by ignoring safety guidelines, have been responsible for an unhealthy percentage of Israel’s spike in illness and death. What’s more, it was their inaction in Israel’s embattled history that has poured a heaps of Kosher salt on the body-politic’s wounds. After all, wasn’t it the Orthodox Jewish men who cowered behind their prayer shawls counting on God to rescue them, while outnumbered Secular, Reform and Conservative Israeli forces –with military might and surpassing bravery– resoundingly whipped invading enemy hordes determined to exterminate all Israeli Jews?
Here in Chicago, I happen to reside in a high-rise condo building where a bulging cluster of Ultra Orthodox Jews dwell, too many of whom thumb their noses at the Corona virus menace, as the rest of us worry how many of those snouts are spring loaded with contaminants that can spout a spindrift of pathogens which can land on other residents with a casualty-wreaking force as deadly and destructive as, well, land mines. Which is why I think of my domicile as a vertical minefield.
Mind you, up until the pandemic struck, I was benignly detached from the Ultra-Orthodox presence in the building. They seemed a well-mannered, obliviously pleasant contingent of oddly attired folk who more or less minded their own business. No more anodyne than, say, the Amish. And I pretty much ignored the building residents who grumbled about ( as confirmed by the Netflix flick,”Unorthodox”) the Ultra Orthodox subjugation of women and their turning a blind eye to science and political news in favor of what one secular Jew called “the scholarship of medieval piffle”, to say nothing of the the Ultra Orthodox-dominated board reputedly bestowing special privileges on their own flock–privileges such as preferred parking spots, the refusal to admonish their brethren when they broke condo rules that called for the levy off fines, and other small transgressions. One resident in a thrust of caustic sarcasm called their dominance “The Occupation.”
But when–after the ugly golem of pandemic rose– and disquieting reports about Ultra-Orthodox menacingly benighted behavior began multiplying, a yellow-hot fury detonated in my ears. Polite cautions from residents to uncooperative Ultra Orthodox residents telling them to wear masks in the building, were met with upturned chins of defiance and walls of truculent ripostes such as, “I don’t have to.” Then, recently, when the board, chaired by an Ultra-Orthodox named David, buttressed the Ultra-Orthodox demurrals by refusing to legislate a mask-wearing mandate, that, for me, was their last raspberry to the other condo owners I could endure. If they want to put the last nail in their coffins, so be it, I thought. But I will not abide them rec putting the last nail in mine. I did not wear the uniform of the U.S. military for years to be mowed down by the selfishness, ignorance and indifference of my fellow Americans.
And so, though I am now an doddering old man, when I see any adult in the building maskless, I challenge them with double-barreled rage; and stay ready to defend myself from any retaliatory physical attack from any schmuck whose obstinacy may well obliterate me. Just like the Israeli citizen soldiers who have historically defended the Ultra-Orthodox from obliteration, I am poised in self-defense.
NOTE: I finished the draft of the above well before POTUS’s hospitalization. I’m hoping this illuminating event brings the building’s senselessly recalcitrant residents and guests to their senses.