More than 3 million Israelis have now received at least their first vaccination shot against Covid-19, with almost 1.8 million having the crucial second injection. At a Cabinet meeting yesterday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz agreed to extend the lockdown until this Friday at 7am and to keep Ben Gurion Airport shut until Sunday.
As we said last week, we are so frustrated that there are still many people engaging in dangerous behaviour. In recent days, three famous haredi rabbis have died of Covid-19 (may their memory be a blessing) and the first two funerals have drawn huge crowds. 10,000 attended the procession for Rabbi Meshulam Dovid Solveitchik and 8,000 attended the funeral of Rabbi Yitzhok Sheiner yesterday: according to one report, police claimed that "there would have been bloodshed" if they had tried to stop the crowds". The third rabbi, whose death we learned of this morning, is arguably the most eminent of all: Rabbi Dr Abraham Twerski, a hugely influential psychiatrist as well as rabbi. This chaos is clearly not sustainable. The people taking part in these events are creating the conditions most likely to cause further infections and further deaths.
We repeat what we said last week: we object to violent people being described as "ultra Orthodox". There is no such thing. A Jewish person can be Orthodox or not; religious or secular. Attacking police officers and damaging property has precisely nothing to do with religious Judaism. According to Talmud, the principle of pikuach nefesh. that there is no greater mitzvah than to save a human life, compels observant Jews to take steps to protect life.
With Covid-19 remaining a major problem, but the world-leading vaccination programme well under way, Israel remains 14th on the list of tests per million people (1,134,091), compared with the UK in 16th place (1,052,607) with the disputed territories of Judea, Samaria and Gaza falling to 96th place (194,049).
After last week's jump, Israel has remained stable in 11th place in the list of cases of coronavirus per million people (69,957) compared to the UK in 24th place (56,057) and the disputed territories falling slightly to 60th place (30,746).
Israel has risen again, to 55th place. in the list of deaths per million people (521 per million). This is still well below the UK in 5th place with 1,559 deaths per million: a testament to the heroes of Magen David Adom and all those involved in the Israeli health system. Also impressive is the statistic for the disputed territories, with only 355 deaths per million people and which has fallen to 69th place in the list. Both Israelis and Palestinians are therefore much less likely to die of Covid-19 than the frequency of confirmed cases would suggest, whereas people in the UK are much more likely to die.
The impressive recovery rate of Palestinians (1.1 % death rate among reported cases, compared with 0.73 % in Israel and 2.6 % in the UK) is doubtless linked to the willingness of Israel to extend health care to even confirmed enemies of the nation such as Saeb Erekat, whose daughter pointedly thanked the "Arab doctors" treating him in hospital in Jerusalem, but not the Jewish medical staff or the country that tried to save his life.
Tens of thousands of Palestinians usually work in Israel, but many have lost jobs due to the economic downturn while others fear transmitting coronavirus to their families and neighbours when they return to the West Bank.