Interesting article by Isabel Kershner in the Times that says the number of Israeli ultra-Orthodox leaving their communities has risen during the pandemic:
As the virus has rampaged through Israel in recent months, it has shaken the assumptions of some in the insular ultra-Orthodox world, swelling the numbers of those who decide they want out.I find this fascinating. It suggests that one key to maintaining any separatist group is to keep everyone so busy with in-group activities that they have no time to interact with others or to wonder whether they are really on the right path. In this case there is an additional point, which is that the ultra-Orthodox have a terrible record on preventing the spread of the disease, which may be causing some to question their leaders. But every leadership group messes up sometimes.
Organizations that help ultra-Orthodox who have left the fold navigate their transition from the highly structured, rules-based lifestyle into modern Israeli society have noted a rise in demand for their services.
Experts attribute the departures to a breakdown of supervision and routine, a rise in internet use during the pandemic and generally more time for questioning and self-discovery.
“If they are not in their usual educational frameworks and are on the internet, meeting friends and going to the beach, that leads to a lot of exposure,” said Gilad Malach, who directs the ultra-Orthodox program at the Israel Democracy Institute, an independent think tank in Jerusalem. “They think of options they don’t think of when they are in yeshiva, and one of the options is to leave.” . . .
This was just what the ultra-Orthodox rabbis had feared and why some were so insistent on keeping their religious education institutions open in violation of lockdown regulations. In a letter calling for girls’ schools to reopen, Leah Kolodetzki, the daughter of one leading rabbi, said that in her father’s opinion “boredom leads to sin” and puts girls in “severe spiritual danger.”
How far can we generalize the insight about busyness and acceptance of our situation?
It is certainly not a new idea that radical thinking comes from time apart; religious reformers spending their time in the desert or on the mountain, for example.
I have always suspected that the reason we secular westerners have so much dissatisfaction with our own system is that we have more time and energy to ask questions. No church to go to, no intense round of ritual or social activity.
But is, maybe, human life at some level a rule-based system just like being ultra-Orthodox, so the way to be satisfied with it is to interact all the time with other humans and throw yourself into human activities so that you don't have time or energy to ask too many questions?