Piny Hackenbroch
Senior Rabbi Woodside Park Synagogue, London

Israel the Vaccine Nation

“When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt.

As we enter 2021, we are hanging on by a thread

In Britain the hospitals are at breaking point, the health workers are beyond exhaustion. The situation is bleak and grim, the lifeline everyone is pinning their hopes on are the vaccines which are slowly being distributed. I say slowly, well every country is slow when it comes to vaccinating its population in comparison to Israel-the start-up nation that I would suggest being now dubbed “the vaccine nation”.

Israel is just nine days into its Covid-19 vaccination drive and already it has inoculated 5.7% of its population –more than five times the 1.2% reached in Britain.

More Israelis have now been vaccinated than have caught the virus and that includes more than 25% of those aged 60 and above.

Such is the power of the world’s fastest vaccination drive it is predicted that the proportion of over 60s among the critically ill will drop from 70% to just 20% by mid-January.

Israel is not just ahead of other countries; the pace of its rollout is astonishing. It begs the question: how is it being done? And what might other countries learn from it?

Truthfully, I have to pinch myself to believe that this is the very same Israel that for the last year has been ravaged by this brutal pandemic, this is the same Israel that has had to endure an unprecedented 3 lock downs and has failed to gain a real handle on containing the virus.

What has changed? Will the true Israel stand up?

Unsurprisingly over the last year the distrust and tension between the various social, religious and political parties from across the spectrum has meant the government has struggled to get the nation to adhere to the restrictions as effectively as they should have.

Golda Meir once quipped the Jewish people are a stiff- necked nation that refuse to take yes as an answer-

“It’s really being treated like a war… and Israel is experienced in battles,” said Professor Allon Moses, Director of the Hadassah Department of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases.

For better or for worse, Israel, and the Jewish people for that matter, have always excelled precisely when we have felt our backs are against the wall. It happened when the Egyptians pursued us following the exodus. With nowhere to run to, we walked with faith and confidence into the raging sea which then split. It happened at the time of the Chanukah story when the few overcame the many of the mighty Greek Empire. It happened after the Holocaust when the survivors arrived in Israel with nothing but the shirts on their backs and the numbers emblazoned on their arms and made a desert bloom. It happened at the time of the Six Day War when Israel miraculously defeated its Arab neighbours. It is the story of our people. We are a nation that thrives on the survival gene, the inner fighting and conflicts in Israel, from the right, the left, the religious and the irreligious are put to one side when the country and our people are on a war footing and are mobilised into action.

So, to our brothers and sisters in Israel as we usher in 2021, we say Lechayim. Within 3 to 4 months the nation of Israel will be inoculated and we pray that the fighting spirit of that survival gene is nurtured long after the pandemic is over. That survival gene is the perfect antidote to so many of the ills of the world and Israeli society.

Lechayim to 2021 to us all, and in particular the people of Israel.

About the Author
Rabbi Hackenbroch is Senior Rabbi of Woodside Park Synagogue, London, UK, as well as a commercial mediator, Holocaust Educator and sought after speaker.
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