A New Year Dawns- The Last Week of the Year in Israel
It's New Year's Eve 2021. Like the rest of the world, I am more than happy to say goodbye to 2020, hoping hard that 2021 will be a better year for the world. For most of the last 11 months, I have been deeply worried and concerned about what might happen. Today, here in Israel — despite a renewed Corona outbreak — the light at the end of the tunnel is visible. It has been ten days since I was vaccinated, and by the end of next week, my entire family here will have been vaccinated. All of my closest friends in Israel have also already been vaccinated.
This is the first of what I hope will be a weekly newsletter. Part of me wanted to put out a newsletter on Tech, Society, and History, areas I have always been interested in, but there is too much happening in Israel at the moment to ignore. I am sure this newsletter's format will evolve over time, but my goal is a to present a short summary of the events of the week clearly and concisely.
I look forward to your feedback:
Nothing better reflects this week in COVID-19 in Israel than the opening of A Tale of Two Cities — It was the best of times; it was the worse of times.
On one hand, this second week of vaccinations saw Israel reach its goal of inoculating 150,000 people a day. The majority of the effort has been spearheaded by Israel's four HMOs, and by the end of this coming week, over 35% of those 60+ (who represent 70% of the critical patients, and over 70% of the deaths) will have been vaccinated. In addition, almost all of Israel's hospital staffs and other health care workers will have received vaccinations. A total of 1 million Israelis have now received their first Pfizer dose.
On the other hand, Israel was supposed to enter another lockdown this week to try to drive down the growing number of newly infected. This lockdown, however, has turned into a national joke. The Knesset, cheered on by the Education Minister, overturned the government's decision, and had opened all the schools, as if there were no rising cases of infection. Businesses have, by-and-large, continued to operate. The only significant change is that malls, and hotels have been closed. Restaurants have gone from take-away to delivery — though delivery can be 10 feet away from the restaurant. According to data collected by the government, the new lockdown has resulted in a drop of only 15% inactivity in the country. This compares to the 60% decrease during the first lockdown, and 40% in the second.
This week's number of new cases has averaged around 5,500 daily Thursday we had 5,804 new people diagnosed with Covid-19 with a 5.7% positive rate— the goal to exit from the lockdown is 1,000 per day.
The first full week of the 2021 election campaign brought a string of news headlines. Defense Minister Gantz gave a speech attacking Netanyahu. Gantz claiming he was successfully defending Israeli democracy, and vowing to fight on. However, as the week went on, more and more MK and cabinet ministers from Gantz's party deserted him. Minister of Justice Avi Nisenkorn abandoned Gantz for the new party formed by Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai. Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi announced he would not run in the next election, as did Science Minister Yizhar Shai. Others also left. Of the 32 Blue and White party Members of Knesset elected in the last election, only seven remain with Gantz.
In the meantime, Huldai's new party named "The Israelis," has gained significant momentum in the Center-Left. It will be a few weeks until it becomes clear what this party's full list will look like.
The army released its yearly report on Thursday.
During the course of 2020, 176 rockets were fired on Israel from Gaza. Of those that were launched to land in a populated area, 93% were shot down by Iron Dome. Israel attacked 300 targets in Gaza (probably empty buildings) and 50 targets in Syria. The Air Force conducted ten training exercises with foreign Air Forces, including the first one on German soil.
RELIGION AND STATE
According to the Israeli Democracy Institute — 42% of those sick with Corona were from the ultra-Orthodox community, who make up 12.5% of the population. Part of the reason for this tremendous level of infection has been due to their failure to change any aspect of their lifestyle in response to the Coronavirus, and in part due to their close quarters. The average Israeli household is composed of 2.9 people, while the average ultra-Orthodox home contains 5.9 people. The number of ultra-Orthodox Yeshiva students has gone up 43% since 2014. Moreover, in 2018, the average ultra-Orthodox individual in the workforce earned NIS 7,800 per month, representing only 59% of the average wages paid to non-ultra-Orthodox Jewish members of the labor force.
Finally, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics, I am now one of 9,291,000 Israelis. While 3,318 Israelis died from Covid–19 this year, and an additional 47,000 died from other causes, there were 176,000 births and 20,000 olim who arrived here this year.