The Vaccination Drive Captures the Israeli Spirit

January 4, 2021 | Daniel Gordis
About the author: Daniel Gordis is the Koret Distinguished Fellow at Shalem College in Jerusalem and the author, most recently, of We Stand Divided: The Rift Between American Jews and Israel.

Currently, the Jewish state has vaccinated over a million of its citizens against the coronavirus, and leads the world in the number of vaccinations per capita. Daniel Gordis reflects on this feat, his own experience receiving an inoculation, and what both say about Israel’s vitality:

As the vaccinations were being given in one of Jerusalem’s large sports arenas, I anticipated utter bedlam, the sort of Israeli chaos that I usually can’t stand, and drove to the arena with a bit of dread. But I was entirely mistaken. Inside, there was a hushed calm, even a sense of sanctity. We waited only a very few minutes, and as I looked at the eyes of other people waiting, their faces hidden behind their masks, I could tell that I was not the only one overwhelmed by a profound sense of gratitude for being part of this country.

At moments, in these recent weeks, the warmth of the past and the promise of the future seemed to meld. A prominent Arab physician from the Galilee told [a] friend of mine what these past months of being on the front lines have felt like to him. “Usually, when Israel goes to war,” he said to her, “we’re not in the army, we can’t help. But this time, Israel went to war again, and we Arabs got to be soldiers, too!” When she wiped a tear from her eye, she told me, his eyes also watered.

Israel, like most countries, still has enormous obstacles to address, many of them important, a few of them existential. But there are still moments here when we recognize that this is not a country like any other. It is a country that was founded to give sanctuary to a particular people that desperately needed it, one that has weathered more in seven decades than most countries do in centuries, and that has produced a sort of familial resilience that can’t be replicated anywhere else.

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