This blog post is written by Lev, a Yahel fellow living in Ramat Eliyahu. This post was written in late February. Fortunately, the situation has improved slightly in the area; however, the observations and reflections remain highly relevant.
Ramat Eliyahu is currently a “red zone”. This government dictated label means that a high rate of residents in this neighborhood have Corona and a low rate have received the vaccine. The youth club “Yesh Matzav” which I described in my last post almost two months ago is currently closed due to one of the teens having tested positive for Corona. While everyone else who works at that location is currently in quarantine, I being part of the vaccinated minority, am able to continue on with my daily routine.
How is it that in a community with a disproportionately large elderly population that most people are still unvaccinated? In order to glean some sort of understanding of the complexity underlying this precarious communal existence I delve into the ongoing conversation regarding whether or not to get the vaccine which I stood bystander to last week while working at the youth club.
While walking to a nearby park, the three teens I was with argued over whether or not it was smart to get vaccinated. The argument went something like this:
“We don’t know if getting the vaccine will give us problems in the future, I heard that some people have died from it.”
“No, you’re ridiculous! Everyone is getting it and only a tiny percentage are negatively affected. My uncle got it and he’s fine. We should all get it when we can.”
“I heard it is a political play by the government.”
“I don’t think Corona is a real threat to us.”
“You guys are stupid; we should all get vaccinated.”
Near the end of the conversation, I joined the dialogue adding simple anecdotal evidence in support of vaccination, trying to push the discourse in one direction without entering into the political fray in action.
The ongoing dialogue is representative of a variety of views and opinions that people in this community hold regarding the public health system and the government. The distrust of public health, doctors, and medicine is prevalent in lower income minority communities and has been linked to a long history of systemic exploitation by the government through health care. Seeing this history manifest in conversation between teens who within a week tested positive for the virus makes this problem pertinent, relevant, and painful to witness. While parts of the country prepare to emerge from lockdown, with the highest rate vaccinated per capita in the world, the community of Ramat Eliyahu remains at risk.
This interaction pushed me to reflect on the multi-dimensional privilege I hold as a vaccinated foreigner in this community. Not only did I get access to this vaccine (which will soon grant me the ability to enter malls and gyms) but I am socially instilled with a trust of the system which distributes the medicine granting me emotional security in this endeavor. Furthermore, I am from a family which has never faced exploitation at the hands of the doctors and have multiple family members who received the vaccine before me convincing me of its legitimacy.
As I head into the second half of the Yahel Fellowship, reflection on interactions and observations will become ever more necessary in order to understand how to act properly in complex situations. As a vaccinated volunteer it is my social responsibility to be ever available to step up to whatever task may arise. Whatever the adversity, whatever the matzav (situation), it is paramount that I maintain perspective, flexibility and continue to work with a healthy body, a full heart, and an open mind.