Sometimes, I feel like Israel is imploding:
The new wave of rioting was sparked by the arrest of a member of Neturei Karta, a small but feisty group in Israel’s ultra-Orthodox community, on suspicion that she starved her child to near-death.
The 3-year-old had been in and out of hospitals for two years, but doctors couldn’t determine the cause of what seemed like chronic and severe malnutrition. The absence of a medical explanation suggested the problem resided elsewhere and surveillance cameras eventually confirmed the suspicions of hospital staff and welfare workers.
The footage showed the mother repeatedly disconnecting the toddler’s feeding tubes. She is believed to suffer from Munchausen syndrome by proxy, a psychiatric condition in which an individual — most often a mother — fabricates or even induces sickness upon a young charge, typically their own child, for attention, compassion and possibly control.
The hospital reportedly refused the police’s request to arrest the mother on the premises; she was arrested outside a Jerusalem welfare office after she had met with a staff member, and disturbances have gone on since. A protest outside the welfare office turned into a rampage and resulted in destroyed computers, toys and other equipment on site. A demonstration Wednesday escalated into full-blown riots, complete with dumpster burning, rock throwing and calling police “Nazis,” and resulted in the arrest of at least 26 protesters and suspension of municipal services such as welfare and sanitation until city employees would not be at risk or under threat in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods of Geula and Mea Shearim.
Posters on the bulletin boards in those neighborhoods told a different story, of a mother devoted to her sick child whose doctors had been tempted to try experimental treatments after failing to find the cause for his condition. The mother suspected the treatment was not in the child’s interest and reportedly was told she would not see him for three years if she continued to intervene. The posters called the affair a modern version of a Middle Ages blood libel and called on the public to avoid seeking treatment at Hadassah hospitals, where Judaism haters are said to lurk.
Ultra Orthodox Israelis have taken on the paranoia that we see elsewhere in the Middle East and in American right-wing politics and combined it with a reflexive charge of anti-semitism that can best be seen in American pro-Israel crowds. The former is common enough throughout the world, but the latter is losing its effectiveness in the US where it’s generally leveled at non-Jews. To see accusations of anti-Judaism and Medieval blood libels by Jews against other Jews in the Jewish state boggles the mind.
Mark my words, the orthodox and secular tribes of Israel are on a collusion course, and the result is not going to be pretty.
Photo: Ultra-Orthdox Jews fill the street in the Mea Shearim neighborhood in Jerusalem on June 27, 2009 as children hurl garbage and rotten vegetables at Israeli police. Riots have erupted in Jerusalem for weeks. Credit: URI LENZ/EPA