Photo Credit: Koby Gideon / GPO
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein with 4 millionth Israeli citizen to be vaccinated, Theodore Slazzen, in Jerusalem's Leumit Health Services clinic

More than four million Israelis – about 44 percent of the total population of the Jewish State – have received the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine, the Prime Minister’s Office has announced. Two-thirds of those who are eligible to be immunized have received the first of the two-dose Pfizer BioNTech series of injections.

About 2.6 million Israelis have already been vaccinated with the complete series of shots – about 4.3 percent of the population. Some 1,996,000 eligible Israelis are left to receive one of the two doses.

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Israel is offering myriad initiatives to encourage people to “get the jab” including free food, inoculations performed in nature reserves and in mobile units on neighborhood streets, and incentives offered by employers for their workers to “go and get the shot.”

When those are completed, there will be some three million Israelis who are not eligible to be vaccinated due to medical issues, those who have recovered from COVID-19, age (younger than 16), and some who cannot be vaccinated for other reasons.

Netanyahu Offers A List for Seniors
On Tuesday, the nation celebrated the vaccination of its four millionth citizen – Theodore Slazzen — at a Leumi Health Services clinic in Jerusalem, complete with the attendance of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein.

“We are at an event that has almost become routine, but this is huge,” Edelstein said. “We have reached four million people vaccinated in Israel. Just two months ago, we could not have dared dream it.”

Netanyahu, however, urged the 570,000 people ages 50 and up who he said had still not received the vaccine to get the shot, pointing out there are serious consequences for waiting. “Almost one hundred percent of the dead and seriously ill are part of this group,” he said.

Netanyahu listed three reasons to be vaccinated:

  1. The danger of non-immunization. “When you do not go to get vaccinated because of this little sting, which is meaningless – in the worst-case scenario there are side effects of discomfort that last a few hours – you take on the risk of death and the danger of serious illness with lifelong effects,” he said.
  2. The Green Passport. “Those who get vaccinated will be able to go out and enjoy theater, movies, sports events, flights abroad, restaurants and more.”
  3. Lockdown. “Not only are you saving yourself, but if you are not going to get vaccinated, many will fall seriously ill, and then you will challenge our hospitals and we will have to impose a new closure,” he said.

There is an increase in the number of younger people who are being hospitalized with severe cases of COVID-19, according to the Health Ministry. On Tuesday night, 32 people under age 30 were hospitalized in serious condition, including 11 placed on life support with ventilators.

Purim Closure Approved in Meron
While the government cabinet voted to relax restrictions as the nation begins to exit its most recent, third lockdown, nevertheless the cabinet still has approved the closure of the northern mountaintop complex around the tomb of the holy Mishnaic sage Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai for the upcoming Jewish holiday of Purim.

Although the best-known Jewish tradition is to gather at this site each year on the holiday of Lag B’Omer, many Jews also travel to the tomb to celebrate the holiday of Purim as well, with music and singing and dance as well as prayers.

The closure of the complex goes into effect starting Thursday Feb. 18 at 7 am and continues until Sunday Feb. 21 at 7 am.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.
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