A Two-Class Society?

It’s never a good look for a democracy to deny certain rights to certain sectors of its population

| Topics: Coronavirus, Vaccine
Photo: Anat Hermony/Flash90

Two weeks after the lockdown officially ended, we are today returning to some semblance of normal in Israel. Stores and shopping centers can finally reopen, as can fitness centers, swimming pools and hotels. And after nearly a full year of inactivity, cultural events such as plays, concerts sporting events with a live audience can finally again take place. It’s our “return to life,” as Health Minister Yulia Edelstein called it.

But it doesn’t apply to all citizens of Israel. And that’s a big “but.” The full measure of this regained freedom is reserved for vaccinated Israelis.

The shopping centers are allowed to reopen after almost 2 months.

Everyone can from today visit stores, shopping centers, museums and libraries in limited numbers so long as they maintain social distancing and wear a mask. But (there’s that word again) only Israelis who possess a “green passport” (meaning they’ve received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine) can enter fitness centers and hotels and attend cultural events. For the first time in its modern history, Israeli society has by way of official government policy been divided into two classes of citizens–the vaccinated and the unvaccinated. Not everyone is comfortable with that.

The situation becomes more problematic when you consider people who want to be vaccinated, but for various reasons are unable. This applies to most of the children in the country, who are excluded from the vaccination drive because the drugs were never tested on subjects below the age of 16. Unfortunately, we live in problematic times, and nobody really seems to have a clear plan for dealing with the crisis, let alone the actual virus. Even after a full year of it dominating life around the world, we still don’t know enough about it.

Perhaps we just need to be patient a little longer and give our decision-makers a chance to get us out of this, even if they don’t always seem capable of making decisions. What is clear is that the situation as it stands today, a society with two classes of citizens, can’t last forever.

Netanyahu and Edelstein at a fitness center. The green passport is the key to reopening the country.

For now, the “privileged” class can use a new mobile application (after all, we Israelis love our technology, and our cellphones) to access their “green passport” (Tav Yarok in Hebrew) via the Ministry of Health. The app is called Ramzor (Hebrew for “traffic light”). Each green passport is valid for one month, after which it must be requested again. Anyone who has received two doses of the Pfizer vaccine or who has medical documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 is entitled to a green passport, which includes a QR code that will be scanned at the entrance to restricted venues and events.

It sounds complicated, and susceptible to a wide range of problems, including forgeries. Even if I understand the concerns (we all want to prevent another outbreak and another lockdown), it’s never a good look for a democracy to deny certain rights to certain sectors of its population.

You can also get vaccinated quickly at the beach in Tel Aviv.

I realize that many will not agree with the way we are handling this crisis. I too have mixed feelings. Let's just wait a while. After all, it does seem we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. We can finally go shopping again, and not just at the supermarket or pharmacy, which has been our sole source of “entertainment” for the past two months.

See related: The ‘Green Passport’ Could Poison Israeli Society

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