“Jews, open your eyes, wait, why hurry?” Public health and the cultural politics of protection in Jerusalem

Drawing on an ethnographic study into child care and health in Jerusalem, this paper explores the cultural politics of protection that surrounds responses to public health intervention during outbreaks of infectious disease. This paper situates the voices of Orthodox and Haredi Jewish parents alongside activism and print cultures (pashkevilim) that circulated anonymous messaging in Jerusalem neighbourhoods – casting public health intervention against historical narratives of danger and deception. Pandemic responses interact with deeply-rooted tensions at the intersection of religion, health and state, as viral outbreaks play into long-running struggles over military conscription and the character of the ‘Jewish state’.