Close your eyes. Imagine that the coronavirus hits Israel during Pride Month in June. Now imagine the resulting vitriol from homophobic social media comments and political rhetoric aimed squarely against Israel's LGBTQ community.
Open your eyes. You don't need to imagine. Simply go to any social media platform and read the hate speech currently directed at the ultra-Orthodox community. Read about the calls to ostracize and in some cases, commit acts of violence. Just because of their "nerve to get infected."
As fate would have it, this pandemic erupted around Purim and not Pride month. And now the ultra-Orthodox community is paying a steep price for their lack of accessibility to media and relevant medical information. Consequently, the Israeli public has found a scapegoat in this strong, substantial, and immediately recognizable community. They've become a lightning rod for our fears and anxieties. And, as most Israelis do not know the ultra-Orthodox community deeply, the old adage is being re-enacted in that "we do not know what we fear, and what we fear, we hate."
Israel's community leaders must join together without exception to state loudly and clearly that the hate campaign against the ultra-Orthodox community is fundamentally wrong and must stop. This pandemic is hurting us all – ultra-Orthodox and secular, Jews and Muslims, citizens and non-citizens, everyone – without distinction. We must not spin this into a matter of politics, faith or country. We must not let it turn into political ammunition that serves only those who try to heighten the flames of hatred.
Our humanity is being tested during these critical times. A few days ago, it was announced that Rabbi Zvi Thau, the president of the Har Hamor Yeshiva and one of the most vocal critics of the LGBTQ community and its demand for equal rights, tested positive for the coronavirus. Rabbi Thau is not a young man and no doubt, many are praying for his health.
As chairperson of the Jerusalem Open House, I want to add my voice to those who are praying. I wholeheartedly wish Rabbi Thau a speedy and complete recovery. Although his public actions are dangerous and harmful, I hope that the rabbi will recover and return to his work as soon as possible.
The battle for human rights is at stake right now, and our biggest test is basic human solidarity. In this test, we cannot fail. We must excel.