The airlift of Pfizer COVID doses carries on without let-up. The shipments are then rushed to Israel’s three socialized medical services, who promptly inject them into an assembly line of waiting Israelis, starting with the elderly (over 80). Next in line are those over 60 and school teachers. Obviously, medical workers have already received the first doses. 

Now amid a razer-close election campaign, Netanyahu is trying to reap the benefit. Bibi is milking this success for all it’s worth. He shows up smiling at Ben Gurion Airport next to a Pfizer shipment or at one of the numerous clinics across the country. 

Guinea Pigs
(Photo by Sandos, CC BY-SA 3.0)

It now transpires that there is another side of this success story with Pfizer. In return, Netanyahu agreed that Israel’s health services would provide Pfizer with confidential health information on individuals, their health condition, and their reaction to the vaccination. Under Israeli practice, individual health information is considered highly confidential and not disclosed to anyone outside of the attending medical personnel. For the first time, Israel is doing so, although individual names are not being disclosed. But obviously, Pfizer now has a leg up on all its competitors (such as Moderna, Oxford, Russian, etc. COVID vaccinations). 

Again, the health portfolio of Israel’s vaccinated population will now be made available to Pfizer. Let’s hope there are no future serious side effects, if there are, Israel will be in deep trouble. In any case, there has been no serious public objection, apparently because individual names are not being disclosed. It boils down to our all becoming guinea pigs in this massive test case, with the results serving all of humanity. 

The photo that shocked Israel!

Photo taken by an anonymous attendant of Ultra-Orthodox wedding in Beitar Ilit.

This is the photo that rocked the Jewish state. An Israeli police officer was dispatched urgently to break up an Ultra-Orthodox wedding ceremony attended by hundreds of people inside a closed synagogue. Rather than following his orders, the police commander prostrated himself before the Rabbi, requesting the Rabbi’s blessing! 

The photo revealed the abject refusal by many (not all) Ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities to abide by legal instructions not to gather in large numbers in closed buildings (health restrictions barring more than 20 people from assembling outdoors and ten indoors). This particular photo was taken inside the town of Beitar Ilit, a particularly disobedient religious community with the highest infection rate in the country. Medical experts have testified that the sudden spurts in Corona cases are largely due to the Ultra-Orthodox refusal to comply with health restrictions.

Question: Who took the photo? My guess is that it was an Ultra-Orthodox worshipper who wanted to prove how far-reaching Ultra-Orthodox Judaism is among the Israeli population, including police officers. He later released it to the media, but it backfired in public opinion. Meanwhile, the police officer has been suspended from duty pending a hearing.

A photo is worth “more than a thousand words” when it comes to individual Israeli police officers who are reluctant to enforce COVID restrictions due to their personal religious beliefs. In another related case, a police officer was recorded telling a teacher at an Ultra-Orthodox school that remained open to instruct his pupils to act as sentries; if they saw police approaching, they were to race to their classrooms and sound the alarm so everyone could scatter! Then the policeman added that they could then come back after the police patrol has passed by. 

The Ultra-Orthodox spokesmen contend that without the “teaching of the Torah,” the world has no existence! One Rabbi declared that even during the Nazi Holocaust in Europe, the Rabbis always continued teaching Torah to their pupils. 

In response to the criticism against them, they have also pointed to the demonstrations held outside the Prime Minister’s residence, which take place every Saturday night and are attended by hundreds of Israels. Under Israeli law, political protests are perfectly legal, provided they remain within the realm of law and order, including public health restrictions. 

It is fair to say that, by and large, these demonstrations have been peaceful, albeit very loud, with hundreds of police officers on guard. There have been several violent clashes, with the demonstrators charging “police brutality,” with a few being arrested and held overnight before being released the next morning. But all in all, each side abides, more or less, by the rules of the game. 

However, after the shocking invasion of the Capitol building in Washington by a mob of berserk Trump fanatics (some of them armed) and the emergency evacuation of members of congress, the political reverberations resound in Israel as well. 

Several days following the Washington debacle, Netanyahu also got into the act. His office issued a statement portraying a similar incident at his Jerusalem residence. He contended that several demonstrators had broken through a barrier and tried to rush his home but were thwarted by police officers present. But the situation was so serious that Shabak Secret Service agents immediately evacuated the Prime Minister and his wife to a secure underground room in his residence. Could it be that Bibi got the bright idea of “me too?”

Question: How come Netanyahu only released this scare episode days after the fact, and only after a startling spectacle at the Capitol in Washington? So far, the Shabak Secret Service has not commented on what did or did not transpire. However, a spokesman for the demonstrators says that Netanyahu has vastly exaggerated what was, in fact, only a minor affair. Some photo evidence has authenticated this.

Election campaign update …

Tel Aviv Mayor and political candidate Ron Huldai (CC

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai may likely emerge as a leading contender to Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu. Huldai is running big photos in the Israeli media titled, “In Israel, there are only two leaders – choose yours.” The words are followed by a photo of blue-eyed Huldai and an uptight and solemn Netanyahu. 

This is also a jab at Gideon Saar, the breakaway ex-Likud member who has no broad leadership experience. Meanwhile, in the Center, Yair Lapid has suffered another blow with the announcement that Moshe Yaalon is withdrawing his support. Previously, another popular MK, Ofer Shelah, also parted company with Lapid. 


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