Israel and the COVID Vaccine

Israel and the COVID Vaccine February 1, 2021

I saw on the news a report about how quickly and efficiently Israel has been able to get the majority of its citizens vaccinated. You just know that there will be conservative Christian Zionists who will say “see, Israel is blessed by God, as we will be if we stand with them.” I cannot stop everyone from going that route, but I have to at least attempt to draw attention to some facts that complicate this conservative Christian narrative.

First, let me highlight the blessing that Israel has that conservative Christians in the United States oppose: socialized healthcare. “In 1995, Israel became the second-to-last country of the developed world to provide health care insurance coverage to all of its citizens, leaving the U.S. as the only holdout.”

Second, the occupied territories where so many of the Christians live are not included in these efforts. This mirrors the inequities in the United States, which were also on the news last night. The wealthiest zip code in the nation has a very high proportion of the population vaccinated, while poor areas and those that are predominantly non-white lag behind.

Third, ultra-conservative Jews (Haredim) share with their conservative Christian counterparts in the United States a proclivity for conspiracy theories and misinformation and a corresponding reluctance to be vaccinated, which puts the aim of widespread immunity at risk.

By all means be thankful for the fact that a modern nation with universal health care is able to address a pandemic effectively—if you’re also going to seek that same blessing for your own country. Being thankful that those who have certain privileges and rights get vaccinated while others in the same country lack equal access is not appropriate, however, whether it be in Israel or the United States. Take a good hard look at the infrastructure that makes what is good in Israel possible. Take a good hard look at the injustices that keep some from benefiting equally. Make a fair comparison between conservatives in different religious traditions who share in common a willingness to obstruct that which seems most advisable in the eyes of their nation’s medical experts. Don’t just “stand with Israel” if you are a conservative Christian, as though your own scriptures (= the Jewish scriptures which Christianity has borrowed) were not full of stories about prophets who stood for Israel precisely by standing against the rulers and anyone else whose policies, practices, and laws they judged to be unjust and thus an affront to God. The Bible does not teach uncritical and unquestioning support for any and every Israeli government regardless of what its policies are.

But by all means stand with Israel by standing with Jews against antisemitism in all its forms, especially its recent manifestations as part of the QAnon conspiracy theory, which is just a recycled form of the malicious lies that have been spread as rumors for centuries.

And by all means stand with Israel on the need for a just system of universal healthcare and vaccination, too. Then go and do likewise in and for your own country as well…

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