Tag Archives: Israel

When the Suez Canal Was Blocked for Eight Years

As the Suez Canal, chokepoint for 15% of world shipping, was cleared today, I thought of another time it was blocked. Not for a week, but for 8 years.

Following the Six Day War in 1967 between Egypt and Israel, Egypt blocked the canal to prevent Israel from using it. They placed old ships, debris, and even explosives in the canal. And it stayed that way, for eight years.

Thousands of workers rotated on and off the ships over the years to protect these valuable pieces of equipment. They organized joint social events and even created their own postage stamps, which have since become hot items for collectors.

The closure also had a serious effect on world trade, especially for countries that relied heavily on the canal. Seventy-nine country pairs saw the effective distance between them increase by 50% or more:

For these pairs, the closure caused an average fall in trade of over 20% with a three to four year adjustment period. Trade between these pairs recovered completely after the canal reopened eight years later with a similar adjustment period.

By the time the canal reopened, most of the ships in the Yellow Fleet could no longer make the trip:

The canal had remained closed so long that most of the Yellow Fleet ships had decayed and needed to be towed. But two of them—the German ships Münsterland and Nordwind—made it out on their own steam.

We had the benefit of peace this time, so the canal could be unblocked quickly. These episodes really emphasized to me the importance of peace and the free flow of goods to our prosperity.

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Photo: “File:Israeli Tanks Cross the Suez Canal – Flickr – Israel Defense Forces.jpg” by Israel Defense Forces is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

For the Vaccinated, Masks May Be Over

If you’ve been vaccinated for COVID, can you finally take off the mask? Early data from Israel says yes:

Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE said on Wednesday that real-world data from Israel suggests that their COVID-19 vaccine is 94% effective in preventing asymptomatic infections, meaning the vaccine could significantly reduce transmission.

If you don’t even have an asymptomatic infection, you shouldn’t be able to transmit the disease to others. That said, this data is preliminary and is not yet peer reviewed.

The problem with real world application of this knowledge is that anyone can say they’re vaccinated. At a grocery store, for example, it would be hard to check everyone given constraints on time and manpower. So, I expect to see masks continue in public places until case rates are very low and everyone who wants a vaccine has had a chance.

That said, this data can inform our actions in private settings. I look forward to being able to wear one less frequently!

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How Israel Is Vaccinating More People Than Anywhere Else On Earth

Israel has vaccinated over a million people in a matter of weeks, moving faster than any other country in the world. About 12% of its population have now received a dose, compared to under 1% in the United States. 70% of the elderly should be vaccinated by the end of this week.

It would be easy to attribute Israel’s speed to its small size and population density. But New Jersey, where I live, has vaccinated only 72,000 people, a rate no better than the national average. So how do you explain Israel’s success?

Israel’s health system is highly centralized and is contacting people who are eligible to get them in for their vaccine. We are expecting those who are eligible to find a vaccination site themselves, which means navigating a fragmented system that sometimes announces available vaccines on Facebook or websites that repeatedly crash.

We have people’s age and residence information available through the Social Security Administration and the IRS. Why are we not using that data to encourage the elderly to get their doses? And why are we not building a central portal for Americans to find out when and where they can be vaccinated?

Israel’s eligibility criteria are broader than in the US, with anyone over age 60 eligible. In the US, we have tight eligibility criteria and few people being vaccinated. This benefits no one as doses sit unused.

Israel also avoids wasting doses at the end of the day by giving doses at risk of spoilage to anyone who wants them.

With a more centralized system, broader eligibility notifications to those eligible, and policies to avoid waste, we could protect our fellow Americans at a much faster rate. Now that we have a solution, it’s a crime to let it sit unused.