Post-vaccine Israel reopens with a party

On central Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Street, home to high-end shopping and many low-end bars, the scene Sunday evening was of a massive party: balloons tied to awnings, people walking on sidewalks with beers, and young revelers overflowing from most drinking establishments as electronic music played.

At one such bar, Fasada, a table of 10 friends, all in their late twenties, were sipping red wine and beers, catching each other up on life and work and romances. Next to them were two guys industriously rolling and smoking joints, worried more about quotidian concerns like a dropped piece of pizza. Nearby, three girlfriends worked on a bottle of white wine together as they eyed the crowd…

Seemingly the only allowances for the unpleasantness of the past year were the masks hanging below some chins and tables more spaced out than usual. A big part of the government’s reopening plan is tied to the “Green Passport” scheme for all those vaccinated or recovered from COVID.

At current writing 40 percent of Israel’s entire population of 9 million people has been fully inoculated via the two-shot Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, including 90 percent of those over the age of 50 who are most at risk. Health authorities have even begun vaccinating teenagers in a bid to fully stop transmissions that increasingly skew younger.