Yankelevitch plan to vaccinate Holocaust survivors abroad panned

Idea described as “total nonsense,” unimplementable, and politically motivated ahead of upcoming Israeli elections.

Vaccine (illustrative) (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Vaccine (illustrative)
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
A plan proposed by Diaspora Affairs Minister Omer Yankelevitch to vaccinate Holocaust survivors living abroad against COVID-19 has been panned as unrealistic and impossible to implement.
Yankelevitch had tasked the Shalom Corps organization, an affiliate of the ministry and the Jewish Agency, with coordinating bureaucratic procedures, although the Jewish Agency was apparently caught totally unawares by the minister’s plans.
The ministry has stood by its proposed operation however, and said such a vaccination drive would safeguard the treasured yet vulnerable population of Holocaust survivors.
According to the Shalom Corps, the organization has approached several large medical shipping companies about the logistics of the project, and the Diaspora Affairs Ministry is working with the Health Ministry to coordinate with Pfizer and Moderna to obtain the vaccines.
Sources in the Jewish Agency said, however, it was unclear how this project would work at all  and how the ministry of the Shalom Corps would be able to gain authorization to operate and distribute vaccines in foreign countries.
And officials in the Jewish Agency only got wind of the initiative on Monday night shortly before the plan was announced.
Colette Avital, head of the Center of Organizations of Holocaust Survivors in Israel, described the idea as “total nonsense,” unimplementable, and politically motivated ahead of upcoming Israeli elections.
“Where’s the money coming from, where will they get the vaccines, where are the names of all the survivors, where are the logistics and medical teams?” she demanded.
Avital also said even if it was possible to implement the plan, vaccinating Jews in countries where the majority of other citizens have not received the coronavirus vaccination could very well generate antisemitism.
“I am very sad that this has been announced on the backs of Holocaust survivors abroad and may have wrongly raised their expectations,” she said.
In reference to the difficulties raised with the idea, the ministry has said that Yankelevitch instructed Shalom Corps to establish a dedicated logistics system to carry out the project with a view to establishing inoculation centers from where medical personnel and volunteers would travel directly to the residence of recipients to perform the vaccination, free of charge.
Shalom Corps said it would be considering “several different work plans to finance and manage this project, including how to utilize Jewish philanthropic networks” and that solutions for other hurdles “such as obtaining permits from foreign governments and the purchase of vaccines by the Ministry, are also being examined.”
The Health Ministry and the Foreign Affairs Ministry did not respond to a request for comment on the plan or their involvement in it.
The Diaspora Affairs Ministry said that it maintains a strong working relationship with the Jewish Agency and that it "updated the relevant bodies about the developments of the project before publication, and will continue to work together on a regular basis, including on this incredibly important operation which serves to unite Jewish institutions and leaders across the world in safeguarding this treasured yet vulnerable population in our community.”