17:49 GMT20 January 2021
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    Thousands of Israelis received a vaccine dose on Shabbat - the seventh day of the Jewish week and a day that traditionally imposes some restrictions concerning working activities and other secular matters.

    Rabbies and religious politicians have slammed the Israeli government over mass vaccination during Shabbat, warning that it goes against spiritual principles, The Times of Israel reported on Sunday.

    According to MK Uri Maklev, from the United Torah Judaism party, “How will there be a blessing for the work of their hands, when they harm Shabbat and the [religious] public in such a serious manner?” he asked rhetorically in a Haredi newspaper on Sunday.

    Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau was quoted as saying, “there is no permission to violate Shabbat” for the sake of vaccine shots.

    Maklev also lashed out at Israeli Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, claiming the latter had promised him there would be no vaccine shots during Shabbat. Edelstein, however, has argued that with the COVID-19 pandemic, given its scope and death rates, the principle of “pikuah nefesh” (saving a life) would be a top priority, even surpassing religious restrictions implied by Shabbat.

    “The coronavirus endangers all of us, the vaccines will save all of us,” the health minister said.

    According to the newspaper, many Orthodox Jews do not agree with this opinion, insisting vaccinations do not apply with the principle of “pikuah nefesh”. Moreover, they say that vaccination efforts require working activities, like operating electronic devices and driving cars, to reach vaccination facilities, which, according to rabbis, violates the rules of the holy day of rest.

    Vaccination Drive in Israel

    The mass vaccination campaign in Israel kicked off on 20 December, with the government allowing for all-week-long vaccinations, including 24-hour clinics, in order to vaccinate more than 150,000 citizens a day. 

    According to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his country will likely be the first state to get out of the pandemic, thanks to the "marvelous vaccine campaign", as well as the "short and quick" lockdown.

    Netanyahu, along with President Reuven Rivlin, was among the first to be vaccinated against COVID-19 after the mass vaccination campaign in Israel kicked off on 20 December. The same day, Israel suspended flights to the United Kingdom, Denmark, and South Africa to prevent new COVID-19 strains from entering the country.

    On Sunday, the third lockdown kicked off in Israel in order to curb the spread of COVID-19. Citizens returning from abroad must self-isolate in special hotels beginning on Tuesday, while foreigners are not allowed to visit Israel except on special occasions.

    Tags:
    Benjamin Netanyahu, Jews, pandemic, Israel
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