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Israel

Pandemic Prompts Israel's Ultra-Orthodox Youth To Cut Loose

The COVID-19 crisis has upended normal routines and led some young Haredims to drop out of school, experiment with drugs and distance themselves from family.

The COVID-19 crisis and two quarantines disrupted the seemingly immutable course of Haredims' lives
The COVID-19 crisis and two quarantines disrupted the seemingly immutable course of Haredims' lives
Louis Imbert

BNEI BRAK — Neighbors discovered the plump, 16-year-old boy out out behind their building in Bnei Brak, the capital of Israel's ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, the Haredim, meaning those who "tremble before God." He was sleeping on an abandoned office chair.

A video of the boy — we'll call him Gadi, for the sake of discretion — circulated from neighbor to neighbor until it reached Tova Bouriya, an ultra-Orthodox mother of Yemeni origin. As the head of the association Tov Ba'lev, she keeps her door open to teenagers on the street. Bouriya then contacted Gadi's grandfather, an influential Sephardic rabbi, who made it clear that he is disowning the boy.

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Russia

When Mom Believes Putin: A Russian Family Torn Apart Over Ukraine Invasion

Sisters Rante and Satu Vodich fled Russia because they could no longer bear to live under Putin — but their mother believes state propaganda about the war. Her daughters are building a new life for themselves in Georgia.

A mother and her daughter on a barricade in Kyiv

Steffi Unsleber

TBILISI — On a gloomy afternoon in May, Rante Vodich gets the keys to her new home. A week earlier, the 27-year-old found this wooden shed in Tbilisi, with a corrugated iron roof and ramshackle bathroom. The shed next door houses an old bed covered in dust. Vodich refers to the place as a “studio” and pays $300 per month in rent. She says finding the studio is the best thing that’s happened to her since she came to Georgia. It is her hope for the future.

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Her younger sister Satu Vodich is around 400 kilometers further west, in the city of Batumi on Georgia’s Black Sea coast, surrounded by Russian tourists, Ukrainian flags, skyscrapers with sea views and the run-down homes of local residents.

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

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