The Zionist Ideal of Self-Reliance May Be behind Israel’s Vaccination Success

As the week began, the Jewish state was outpacing the UK and U.S. in vaccinations per capita by more than seven to one. To explain this remarkable efficiency, some observers have cited the country’s highly centralized healthcare system, others the decentralization of authority to give vaccines. Perhaps, writes, Ira Stoll, it’s some combination of the two. Stoll also cites some additional reasons:

One factor is that the Jewish religion that shapes Israel’s values places a high value on saving lives. . . . Another factor is that Israel is a democracy.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, while long-serving, is in what seems like a perpetual battle for political survival. . . . Netanyahu wants re-election and credit for Israel’s voters for doing a good job with the vaccine. Politics and public-health incentives are aligned. The Israeli health minister, Yuli Edelstein, . . . grew up in the Soviet Union, which sent him to the Gulag on phony charges after he applied to migrate to Israel. For someone who has defeated the KGB and the Soviet Communist superpower, tackling the coronavirus may seem less daunting.

Relatedly, Israelis are not shy about putting their own country first. They are generous in aiding other countries in need, from Africa to Haiti. But when one’s own small country has served as a refuge for Jews fleeing brutal persecution and hardship in places such as Europe, Iraq, Ethiopia, and Yemen, one accumulates a certain hard-earned contempt for the perils of waiting for help from the United Nations or the World Health Organization. Israelis realize that their lives depend on their own hustle. That is what Zionism, the idea of a Jewish state, is all about: Jewish self-reliance and national responsibility for Jewish security.

It’s worth mentioning, too, that the Israeli national identity includes Israeli Arabs and Druze. Many Israeli doctors are Arab—to the point where campaigns are underway to get smart Arab high-school students to think about going into the high-tech start-up sector instead of following the well-worn path to medical school.

Read more at Algemeiner

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Coronavirus, Israeli democracy, Judaism

Why Arab Jerusalem Has Stayed Quiet

One of Hamas’s most notable failures since October 7 is that it has not succeeded in inspiring a violent uprising either among the Palestinians of the West Bank or the Arab citizens of Israel. The latter seem horrified by Hamas’s actions and tend to sympathize with their own country. In the former case, quiet has been maintained by the IDF and Shin Bet, which have carried out a steady stream of arrests, raids, and even airstrikes.

But there is a third category of Arab living in Israel, namely the Arabs of Jerusalem, whose intermediate legal status gives them access to Israeli social services and the right to vote in municipal elections. They may also apply for Israeli citizenship if they so desire, although most do not.

On Wednesday, off-duty Israeli soldiers in the Old City of Jerusalem shot at a Palestinian who, it seems, was attempting to attack them. But this incident is a rare exception to the quiet that has prevailed in Arab Jerusalem since the war began. Eytan Laub asked a friend in an Arab neighborhood why:

Listen, he said, we . . . have much to lose. We already fear that any confrontation would have consequences. Making trouble may put our residence rights at risk. Furthermore, he added, not a few in the neighborhood, including his own family, have applied for Israeli citizenship and participating in disturbances would hardly help with that.

Such an attitude reflects a general trend since the end of the second intifada:

In recent years, the numbers of [Arab] Jerusalemites applying for Israeli citizenship has risen, as the social stigma of becoming Israeli has begun to erode and despite an Israeli naturalization process that can take years and result in denial (because of the requirement to show Jerusalem residence or the need to pass a Hebrew language test). The number of east Jerusalemites granted citizenship has also risen, from 827 in 2009 to over 1,600 in 2020.

Oddly enough, Laub goes on to argue, the construction of the West Bank separation fence in the early 2000s, which cuts through the Arab-majority parts of Jerusalem, has helped to encouraged better relations.

Read more at Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

More about: East Jerusalem, Israeli Arabs, Jerusalem