Why Israeli Bedouin Are Starting to Get Vaccinated—Despite Initial Reluctance

While Israel leads the world in coronavirus vaccinations per capita, vaccination rates remain very low among the country’s Bedouin, many of whom are suspicious of the vaccine. In one instance, a village received 1,000 doses, but only twenty residents agreed to receive a shot, and the remaining doses had to be discarded. Mohammed al-Nabari—a physician and the former mayor of a Bedouin village—heads a nonprofit dedicated to helping his fellow Bedouin. He describes its efforts to rectify the situation:

The low vaccination rates in the Bedouin community reflected the low amounts of trust between the community and the government. Yet we were able to change that, thanks to strong pre-existing relationships among community leaders, the government, and those in the private sector with access to resources and expertise. Those relationships were built long before the pandemic, and could only be activated effectively in a crisis because of years of building the infrastructure of trust.

Nabari takes as an example the village of Sa’wa, whose residents were reluctant to be vaccinated before Hassan, the local imam:

In [the Bedouin] community, the imam’s word carries more weight than any scientist or government official could ever muster. Vaccinating the people of Sa’wa depended on Hassan, and he was eager to lead by example. But at forty-six, he was too young to be eligible for a vaccine during this early stage of the rollout, and waiting to vaccinate the imam meant further excruciating delays in vaccinating vulnerable residents throughout Sa’wa.

[A]fter calling upon relationships we had developed over the years with various ministries and medical insurance agencies, Hassan’s cell phone pinged with a text confirming his appointment later that day. Word spread rapidly that the imam had received the vaccine, even more so after he spoke about his vaccination at Friday prayers and encouraged others to make appointments. Over the following days, we saw a steady increase as more and more residents signed up.

In my hometown of Hura, we received unprecedented support from the Israeli Home Front Command; a Muslim cleric rode through the town with a bullhorn atop an Israeli military vehicle, shouting vaccine information to passersby. We still have much work to do, but early data of our efforts shows promise. Just three days after initiating our strategy, the number of people vaccinated in Hura surged from just 8 percent to 25.4 percent.

Read more at Newsweek

More about: Bedouin, Coronavirus, IDF, Islam, Israeli Arabs

An Israeli Buffer Zone in the Gaza Strip Doesn’t Violate International Law

 The IDF announced on Thursday that it is safe for residents to return to some of the towns and villages near the Gaza Strip that have been abandoned since October 7. Yet on the same day, rocket sirens sounded in one of those communities, Kibbutz Mefalsim. To help ensure security in the area, Israel is considering the creation of a buffer zone within the Strip that would be closed to Palestinian civilians and buildings. The U.S. has indicated, however, that it would not look favorably on such a step.

Avraham Shalev explains why it’s necessary:

The creation of a security buffer along the Gaza-Israel border serves the purpose of destroying Hamas’s infrastructure and eliminating the threat to Israel. . . . Some Palestinian structures are practically on the border, and only several hundred yards away from Israeli communities such as Kfar Aza, Kerem Shalom, and Sderot. The Palestinian terrorists that carried out the murderous October 7 attacks crossed into Israel from many of these border-adjacent areas. Hamas officials have already vowed that “we will do this again and again. The al-Aqsa Flood [the October 7th massacre] is just the first time, and there will be a second, a third, a fourth.”

In 2018 and 2019, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad organized mass marches towards the Israeli border with the goal of breaking into Israel. Billed by Palestinians as “the Great March of Return,” its name reveals its purpose—invasion. Although the marches were supposedly non-violent, they featured largescale attacks on Israeli forces as well as arson and damage to Israeli agriculture and civilian communities. Moreover, the October 7 massacre was made possible by Hamas’s prepositioning military hardware along the border under false cover of civilian activity. The security perimeter is intended to prevent a reprise of these events.

Shalev goes on to dismantle the arguments put forth about why international law prohibits Israel from creating the buffer zone. He notes:

By way of comparison, following the defeat of Nazi Germany, France occupied the Saar [River Valley] directly until 1947 and then indirectly until reintegration with Germany in 1957, and the Allied occupation of Berlin continued until the reunification of Germany in 1990. The Allies maintained their occupation long after the fall of the Nazi regime, due to the threat of Soviet invasion and conquest of West Berlin, and by extension Western Europe.

Read more at Kohelet

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, International Law, Israeli Security