Wave of vaccinations after healthy pregnant woman dies of coronavirus

Menachem Toker, haredi radio broadcaster, says yeshiva students are mostly getting vaccinated. 'The problem is the adults, who are influenced by anti-vax messages.'

Shimon Cohen ,

Israelis receive a Covid-19 vaccine, at a vaccination center in Tzfat
Israelis receive a Covid-19 vaccine, at a vaccination center in Tzfat
David Cohen/Flash90

The death of Osnat Ben Shitrit, a pregnant woman who died of coronavirus, has encouraged a large number of haredim to get vaccinated against coronavirus, haredi broadcaster Menachem Toker said.

"I feel that there is a huge wave of people getting vaccinated," said Toker, who is also a neighbor of the Ben Shitrit family. "I myself published a status on the story of people getting vaccinated, about how important it is, and that those who incite against vaccination are a kind of murderer. Suddenly I received dozens of notices about people getting the vaccine, with photos of yeshiva students who are getting vaccinated. People who didn't think it's important, and now they're going to get vaccinated."

"In the haredi street, there's a relatively high percentage of people vaccinated, but 16-year-old yeshiva students are mostly either recovered or getting vaccinated. The problem is the adults, who accept things like what Rabbi Amnon Yitzhak published under his own name saying not to vaccinate, or what Asherov said, in his call not to get vaccinated.

"Each person can do what he wants, but lives are at stake and when you see a woman in her 30s with no pre-existing conditions die in one second and four small children saying Kaddish (the mourner's prayer - ed.), people say, 'What's this fake news?' and even those who are afraid to vaccinate has to go get vaccinated."

When asked what made Ben Shitrit's death such a significant shock in the haredi sector, Toker said: "It was a combination of things. It happened in one dramatic moment. With her death, she demanded people get vaccinated. When you hear about someone in their 70s, you say it won't reach here or there, but here it happened to someone who had no pre-existing conditions and we heard that one of her family members was a founder of anti-vax groups, and you see that it reaches there. It creates a shock that really caught us, and it's a shame that we've reached this situation."

"Her death caused many people to wake up and get vaccinated, and caused a wave of vaccinations. People are turning to me and asking how they can get the vaccine and where they should go. It became a discussion. Someone turned to me and told me that in his yeshiva, there are forty people who still haven't received the vaccine.

"I'm in a very serious conversation with [Jerusalem Mayor] Moshe Lion, to hold a performance only for yeshiva students who are vaccinated. Whoever didn't vaccinate can't come in. That's something that should encourage it. It's a reopening of culture. Specifically in the haredi sector, where he did some things incorrectly, specifically when it comes to the issue of vaccinations, we should be 'like one man, with one heart,' and run to fulfill the commandments."