With the education minister at his side, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett issued a message to education officials and educators that their top priority is vaccination of children by all means possible – from clinics to schools.
“In the coming weeks, the main national mission of the State of Israel, of the Government of Israel and of the education system is to quickly vaccinate and protect the children of Israel before the main part of the Omicron wave arrives. To vaccinate the children of Israel and protect them before the wave arrives – afterwards there will be other missions,” he said.
“Therefore, I say as clearly as possible: I expect every district manager, inspector, principal and teacher to understand that in the next two weeks, this is the supreme mission, above all others.”
Bennett had Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton at this side. Shasha-Biton has consistently opposed rolling out the vaccine campaign at schools calling it a "crime." She has paid dearly for that, incurring vast criticism for her stance.
“The role of the Ministry of Education is to educate and give children an optimal educational environment,” she wrote on her Facebook page in July explaining that the focus of schools should be on education. “Children have been facing emotional distress from the past year and we must not put further social pressure on them in the educational framework.”
Israeli schools were closed for several months during the first, second and third waves of the coronavirus. Middle school students were relegated to online learning exclusively for months on end while others were back and forth between lockdowns.
Shasha-Biton eventually relented in allowing the Ministry of Health and Homefront Command –an arm of the military – to run vaccination stations at the schools. Bennett said on Monday that this is the government’s main goal over the next few weeks.
Bennett also admitted that the vaccine does not protect against infection from the Omicron variant, but he said it does protect – apparently – from serious illness, according to a report on Channel 12.
He also warned that further restrictions were likely to be introduced in stemming the spread of Omicron.
“When the wave comes, we will try to roll it out, which will not double itself every day but for the longest time,” he said.
Israelis without a Green Passport have been barred from public venues including gyms, restaurants, universities and other establishments – even their children's schools – since September.
Nicole Jansezian was the news editor and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS.