A Letter from Jewish Clergy Calling on the Israeli Government to Equitably Distribute Vaccines to Palestinians
Minister of Health Yuli Edelstein 39 Yirmiyahu St. P.O.Box 1176 Jerusalem 9101002
Dear Minister Edelstein,
We, the undersigned rabbis and cantors affiliated with T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, congratulate the State of Israel on its highly efficient vaccination of its citizens and permanent residents against COVID-19. We also applaud Israel’s transfer of 5,000 vaccine doses to the Palestinian Authority (PA) and its initial steps to vaccinate all incarcerated people, including Palestinians in Israeli military prisons. We now call on Israel to take the next step and to fulfill its moral and legal responsibility to ensure that all residents of the occupied Palestinian territories, including both the West Bank and Gaza Strip, are vaccinated.
We read in the Shulchan Arukh, Judaism’s most authoritative law code, “Some argue that maintaining a synagogue is more important than tzedakah, but tzedakah...to impoverished sick people is even more important than maintaining a synagogue.” (YD 249:16) It is crucial here that we understand tzedakah in its root meaning, not as charity but as obligatory justice.
Under Article 56 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, an occupying power has the obligation to mitigate and prevent communicable diseases and epidemics. The Oslo Accords did nothing to change the Palestinian territories’ status as occupied. Israeli and American Jewish leaders who point to the Oslo Accords’ transfer of responsibility for healthcare to the PA are trying to have it both ways: ignoring Oslo when it comes to settlement growth and land expropriation while relying on Oslo to absolve themselves of responsibility. Oslo assumed a final status agreement within the next five years; the signers of the Oslo Accords did not imagine that, more than twenty years later, the Palestinian territories would remain under occupation.
Moreover, the Accords stipulated that epidemic control would be a joint responsibility. While the PA is working to procure vaccine doses from the UN, Russia, and other sources, Israel has not done nearly enough to fulfill its obligation to assist in this effort. Israel’s success in vaccinating its own citizens and residents contrasts dramatically and negatively with their abdication of responsibility toward the Palestinians living under their jurisdiction.
The situation in Gaza is even more dire, given that the blockade of the last thirteen years, among other factors, has led to widespread poverty and weakened infrastructure. Even after the official disengagement from Gaza in 2005, Israel still maintains control of Gaza’s perimeter, including determining what materials and people can enter and leave, and supplies the majority of Gaza’s electricity. In addition to the public health crisis brought on by the pandemic, Gaza residents cannot withstand continued lockdown on top of the blockade. Getting the vaccine to Gaza should be a priority of the utmost urgency.
We also stand in support of United States elected officials who have called for Israel to take seriously its responsibility to ensure Palestinians receive the vaccine. It is entirely within the United States’ prerogative to stand up for human rights abroad, especially among our closest friends and the recipients of US foreign aid. As a member of the United Nations, Israel has the same international human rights obligations as every other nation. There are no grounds to construe calls to live up to these obligations as “anti-Israel” any more than calls for the United States to live up to its own obligations would be deemed anti-American.
We issue this call following the moral example of our ancient sages of blessed memory. Of Rav Huna, the third century rabbi, the Talmud recounts, “Whenever he discovered some [new] medicine, he would fill a water jug with it, suspend it above the doorstep, and proclaim, ‘Whosoever desires it, let them come and take of it.'’’ (Ta’anit 21a)
Rabbi Herschel Aberson - Woodland Hills, CA Rabbi Susan Abramson - Burlington, MA Rabbi David Adelson - Brooklyn, NY Rabbi Adina Allen - Berkeley, CA Cantor Sheri Allen - Fort Worth, TX Rabbi Doug Alpert - Kansas City, MO Rabbi Renni Altman - Poughkeepsie, NY Rabbi Guy Austrian - New York, NY Rabbi Susan Averbach - San Francisco, CA Rabbi Aryeh Azriel - Omaha, NE Rabbi Benjamin Barnett - Portland, OR Rabbi Eliot Baskin - Greenwood Village, CO Rabbi Marci Bellows - Chester, CT Rabbi Lisa Bellows - Glenview, IL Rabbi Allen Bennett - San Francisco, CA Rabbi James Bennett - Saint Louis, MO Rabbi Phyllis Berman - Philadelphia, PA Rabbi Marjorie Berman - Clarks Summit, PA Rabbi Aryeh Bernstein - Chicago, IL Rabbi Jonathan Biatch - Madison, WI Rabbi Barry Block - Little Rock, AR Rabbi Elizabeth Bolton - Ottawa, ON Rabbi Jill Borodin - Seattle, WA Rabbi Joshua Breindel - Sudbury, MA Cantor Vera Broekhuysen - North Andover, MA Rabbi Daniel Bronstein - Brooklyn, NY Rabbi Lester Bronstein - White Plains, NY Rabbi Deborah Bronstein - Boulder, CO Rabbi Sharon Brous - Los Angeles, CA Rabbi David Brusin - Whitefish Bay, WI Rabbi Harold Caminker - Holly Springs, NC Rabbi Debra Cantot - Bloomfield, CT Rabbi Donald Cashman - Albany, NY Rabbi Adam Chalom - Highland Park, IL Rabbi Joshua Chasan - Portland, ME Rabbi Ken Chasen - Los Angeles, CA Rabbi Mari Chernow - Phoenix, AZ Rabbi Ian Chesir-Teran - Kibbutz Hannaton, Israel Rabbi Geoffrey Claussen - Greensboro, NC Rabbi Tamara Cohen - Philadelphia, PA Rabbi Ayelet Cohen - New York, NY Rabbi Emily Cohen - Brooklyn, NY Rabbi Aryeh Cohen - Los Angeles, CA Rabbi David J. Cooper - Berkeley, CA Rabbi Tirza Covel - Olney, MD Rabbi David Curiel - Somerville, MA Rabbi Michael Davis - Evanston, IL Rabbi Nathan DeGroot - Detroit, MI Rabbi Calvin Dox-DaCosta - Los Angeles, CA Rabbi Doris Dyen - Pittsburgh, PA Rabbi David Eber - Evanston, IL Rabbi Judith Edelstein - New York, NY Rabbi Laurence Edwards - Chicago, IL Rabbi Amy Eilberg - Los Altos, CA Rabbi Mark Elber - Fall River, MA Rabbi Bruce Elder - Highland Park, IL Rabbi Barat Ellman - Brooklyn, NY Rabbi Andrew Ettin - Pfafftown, NC Rabbi Jeffrey Falick - Farmington Hills, MI Rabbi Susan Falk - Brooklyn, NY Rabbi Josh Feigelson - Skokie, IL Rabbi Michael Feinberg - New York, NY Rabbi Nora Feinstein - Princeton, NJ Rabbi Theodore Feldman - Petaluma, CA Rabbi Michael Fessler - Poughkeepsie, NY Rabbi Zev-Hayyim Feyer - Pomona, CA Rabbi Brian Fink - Brooklyn, NY Rabbi Tirzah Firestone - Longmont, CO Rabbi Adam Fisher - Port Jefferson Station, NY Rabbi Jeff Foust - Newton Center, MA Rabbi John Friedman - Durham, NC Rabbi Stacy Friedman - San Rafael, CA Rabbi Dayle Friedman - Philadelphia, PA Rabbi Margaret Frisch Klein - Elgin, IL Rabbi Pam Frydman - Redwood City, CA Rabbi Ruth Gais - Summit, NJ Rabbi Rachel Gartner - Washington, DC Rabbi Jonah Geffen - New York, NY Rabbi Laura Geller - Los Angeles, CA Rabbi Carol Glass - Newton Center, MA Rabbi Dr. Miriam Glazer - Los Angeles, CA Rabbi Dr. Aubrey Glazer - Montreal, QC Rabbi Arnold Gluck - Skillman, NJ Rabbi Bob Gluck - Albany, NY Rabbi Rosalind Gold - Reston, VA Rabbi Andrew Gold - Las Vegas, NM Rabbi Susan Goldberg - Los Angeles, CA Rabbi Rachel Goldenberg - Jackson Heights, NY Rabbi Shelley Goldman - West Chester, PA Cantor Elizabeth Goldmann - Nanuet, NY Rabbi Andrea Goldstein - Saint Louis, MO Rabbi Elizabeth Goldstein - Vienna, VA Rabbi Seth Goldstein - Olympia, WA Rabbi Sara Goodman - Santa Monica, CA Rabbi Maralee Gordon - Woodstock, IL Rabbi Lauren Grabelle Herrmann - New York, NY Rabbi Lisa Grant - Brooklyn, NY Rabbi Arthur Green - Newton Center, MA Rabbi Cantor Robert Green - Basking Ridge, NJ Rabbi Matthew Green - Brooklyn, NY Rabbi David Greenstein - Montclair, NJ Rabbi Michael Greenwald - Canton, NY Rabbi Suzanne Griffel - Chicago, IL Rabbi Nadya Gross - Erie, CO Rabbi Miriam Grossman - Brooklyn, NY Rabbi Joshua Gutoff - Philadelphia, PA Rabbi Laurie Hahn Tapper - Redwood City, CA Rabbi Denise Handlarski - Toronto, ON Rabbi Maurice Harris - Glenside, PA Rabbi Michael Harvey - West Lafayette, IN Rabbi Eli Herb - Salem, OR Rabbi Lizzi Heydemann - Chicago, IL Rabbi Jay Heyman - Boise, ID Cantor Sandy Horowitz - New York, NY Rabbi Jocee Hudson - Los Angeles, CA Rabbi Tmimah Ickovits - Santa Monica, CA Rabba Eve Ilsen - Boulder, CO Rabbi Jill Jacobs - New York, NY Rabbi Joshua Jacobs-Velde - Silver Spring, MD Rabbi Burt Jacobson - El Sobrante, CA Rabbi Devorah Jacobson - Hadley, MA Rabbi Jennifer Jaech - Peekskill, NY Rabbi David Jaffe - Sharon, MA Rabbi Randy Kafka - Stoughton, MA Rabbi Rachel Kahn-Troster - Teaneck, NJ Rabbi Emily Aviva Kapor-Mater - Seattle, WA Rabbi Debra Kassoff - Jackson, MS Rabbi Jan Katzew - Montgomery, OH Rabbi Allan Kensky - Evanston, IL Rabbi Justin Kerber - Carmel, IN Rabbi Emma Kippley-Ogman - Saint Paul, MN Rabbi Malkah Binah Klein - Philadelphia, PA Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum - New York, NY Rabbi David L Kline - Brooklyn, NY Rabbi Marc Kline - Long Branch, NJ Rabbi Tracy Klirs - Charlotte, NC Rabbi Asher Knight - Charlotte, NC Rabbi Michael Knopf - Richmond, VA Rabbi Stephanie Kolin - Brooklyn, NY Rabbi Debra Kolodny - Portland, OR Rabbi Douglas Krantz - Townsend, DE Rabbi Claudia Kreiman - Brookline, MA Rabbi Nancy Kreimer - Philadelphia, PA Rabbi Suri Krieger - Westborough, MA Rabbi Noa Kushner - San Francisco, CA Rabbi Hannah Laner - Portland, OR Rabbi Michael Latz - Minneapolis, MN Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie - New York, NY Rabbi Adam Lautman - Livingston, NJ Rabbi Sandra Lawson - Burlington, NC Rabbi Jim Lebeau - Jerusalem, Israel Rabbi Esther Lederman - Arlington, VA Rabbi Michael Lerner - Berkeley, CA Rabbi Sheldon Lewis - Palo Alto, CA Rabbi Michael Lezak - San Francisco, CA Rabbi Mordechai Liebling - Philadelphia, PA Rabbi Jonathan Lipnick - New York, NY Rabbi Andrea Lobel - Ottawa, ON Rabbi Andrea London - Evanston, IL Cantor Abbe Lyons - Ithaca, NY Rabbi Paula Marcus - Aptos, CA Rabbi Marc Margolius - New York, NY Rabbi Jeffrey Marker - Brooklyn, NY Rabbi Roly Matalon - New York, NY Rabbi Brian Zachary Mayer - Portland, OR Cantor Sharon McCord - Charlottesville, VA Rabbi Lev Meirowitz Nelson - Brooklyn, NY Rabbi Jessica Kate Meyer - San Francisco, CA Rabbi Abby Michaleski - Sicklerville, NJ Rabbi Mimi Micner - Watertown, MA Rabbi Rachel Mikva - Chicago, IL Rabbi Alissa Miller - Lafayette, CA Rabbi David Mivasair - Hamilton, ON Rabbi Katie Mizrahi - San Francisco, CA Rabbi Adam Morris - Denver, CO Rabbi Robin Nafshi - Concord, NH Rabbi Steve Nathan - Bethlehem, PA Rabbi Shuli Passow - New York, NY Rabbi Salem Pearce - Durham, NC Rabbi Allison Peiser - Marblehead, MA Rabbi Laurie Phillips - Brooklyn, NY Rabbi Joel Pitkowsky - Teaneck, NJ Rabbi William Plevan - New York, NY Rabbi Robin Podolsky - Los Angeles, CA Rabbi Elaine Pollack - Watertown, MA Rabbi Charles Rabinowitz - Larchmont, NY Rabbi Frederick Reeves - Chicago, IL Rabbi Victor Reinstein - Jamaica Plain, MA Rabbi Max Reynolds - Brooklyn, NY Rabbi Mira Rivera - New York, NY Rabbi Joshua Rose - Portland, OR Rabbi Kliel Rose - Winnipeg, MB Rabbi Cantor Diane Rose - Los Angeles, CA Rabbi Cantor Elana Rosen-Brown - San Rafael, CA Rabbi Ken Rosenstein - Brighton, MA Rabbi Francine Roston - Whitefish, MT Rabbi Michael Rothbaum - Acton, MA Rabbi Jonathan Rubenstein - Gansevoort, NY Rabbi Ralph Ruebner - Skokie, IL Rabbi Laura Rumpf - Oakland, CA Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg - Evanston, IL Rabbi Susan Sandler - San Francisco, CA Rabbi Jade Sank Ross - Port Washington, NY Rabbi Fred Scherlinder Dobb - Bethesda, MD Rabbi SaraLeya Schley - Sparks, NV Rabbi Chaim Schneider - Aptos, CA Rabbi Dale Schreiber - Saint Louis, MO Cantor Eric Schulmiller - Manhasset, NY Rabbi Evan Schultz - Bridgeport, CT Rabbi Sid Schwarz - Rockville, MD Rabbi Allen Secher - Whitefish, MT Rabbi Stephen Segar - Shaker Heights, OH Rabbi Judith Seid - Pleasanton, CA Rabbi Mayer Selekman - Bala Cynwyd, PA Rabbi Gerald Serotta - Chevy Chase, MD Rabbi Lori Shaller - Oak Bluffs, MA Rabbi Susan Shamash - Vancouver, BC Cantor Elizabeth Shammash - Philadelphia, PA Rabbi Alexandria Shuval-Weiner - Roswell, GA Rabbi Becky Silverstein - Jamaica Plain, MA Rabbi Felicia Sol - New York, NY Rabbi Jenny Solomon - Raleigh, NC Rabbi Eric Solomon - Raleigh, NC Cantor Kerith Spencer-Shapiro - Pacific Palisades, CA Rabbi S David Sperling - Peekskill, NY Rabbi Toba Spitzer - Waltham, MA Rabbi Erica Steelman - Philadelphia, PA Rabbi Talia Stein - Brookline, MA Rabbi Naomi Steinberg - Carlotta, CA Rabbi Lane Steinger - Saint Louis, MO Rabbi Ariel Stone - Portland, OR Rabbi Joshua Strom - Chappaqua, NY Rabbi Shira Stutman - Washington, DC Rabbi Alana Suskin - Rockville, MD Rabbi Barbara Symons - Monroeville, PA Rabbi Susan Talve - Saint Louis, MO Rabbi Miriam Terlinchamp - Cincinnati, OH Rabbi Rachel Timoner - Brooklyn, NY Rabbi David Vaisberg - Maplewood, NJ Rabbi Andy Vogel - Brookline, MA Rabbi Nahum Ward-Lev - Santa Fe, NM Rabbi Arthur Waskow - Philadelphia, PA Rabbi Seth Wax - Williamstown, MA Rabbi Deborah Waxman - Elkins Park, PA Rabbi Elyse Wechterman - Abington, PA Rabbi Marley Weiner - Carlisle, PA Rabbi Dvora Weisberg - Los Angeles, CA Rabbi Rachel Weiss - Evanston, IL Rabbi Lew Weiss - Indianapolis, IN Rabbi Zari Weiss - Seattle, WA Rabbi Ora Weiss - Newton Center, MA Rabbi Alex Weissman - Providence, RI Rabbi Ariann Weitzman - Montclair, NJ Rabbi Zachary Wiener - Chicago, IL Rabbi Nancy Wiener - New York, NY Rabbi David Wirtschafter - Lexington, KY Rabbi Joseph Wolf - Portland, OR Cantor Josee Wolff - New York, NY Rabbi Michal Woll - Milwaukee, WI Rabbi Eric Woodward - Blue Bell, PA Rabbi Sandra Wortzel - Albion, CA Cantor Cheryl Wunch - Toronto, ON Rabbi Sara Zacharia - New York, NY Rabbi Daniel Zemel - Arlington, VA Rabbi Lina Zerbarini - Cold Spring Harbor, NY Rabbi Shawn Zevit - Philadelphia, PA Rabbi Sara Zober - Reno, NV Rabbi Benjamin Zober - Reno, NV Rabbi Henry Zoob - Westwood, MA Cantor Michael Zoosman - College Park, MD
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