Haredi Health Minister Hides Liberalism Under His Hat
A short, humorous video by the Health Ministry in honor of World AIDS Day is getting lots of social media attention and looks to be the first government-produced video to strike viral gold.
The video, produced by the Government Publications Office, encourages the use of condoms to protect against AIDS. A parody of conservatism, it feature a physician solemnly warning against unprotected sex, explaining how it exponentially increases the risk of contracting HIV or other sexually-transmitted infections. Therefore, he advises, ‘Stop having sex.’ The video then cuts to a number of humorous situations in which young adults, bursting with hormones, follow the physician’s advice and abstain from sex until he says at the end, ‘Or just wear a condom.’
The video got more than 120,000 views in less than 24 hours. No other governmentally-produced video has been viewed as much, except for the ones that ended up as targets for mockery. But there is another reason why the clip is so extraordinary: Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman is a member of the Haredi community, specifically the Ger Hasidic sect, known for its extreme strictness. In other words, it’s shocking that a ministry under his authority would produce a video that basically condones non-marital, non-monogamous sex.
As deputy health minister, Litzman has been known mostly for controversial decisions involving religious-secular tensions, like his insistence not to relocate ancient graves found at the Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon to make room for a new emergency room. In addition to nearly costing the state hundreds of millions of shekels, his decision almost caused a dangerous delay in fortifying a hospital close to the Gaza border and vulnerable to rockets.
The incident, which occurred early in Litzman’s term, led to the highly-publicized resignation of the ministry’s director-general, Dr. Eitan Hai-Am and caused a media uproar that entrenched Litzman’s image as a backward deputy minister who cared only about his own community. His move to institute gender-segregated wards in psychiatric hospitals in Jerusalem also caused an uproar among mental-health professionals.