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Israeli Society and the COVID-19 Pandemic: Strengths and Strains in the National Fabric


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On May 11, a group of scholars discussed the scale of the impact on Israeli society, revealing some international commonalities as well as unique national characteristics – from security and distancing regulations to labor market and welfare policies. Participants were Gad Yair, an Israel Institute Visiting Professor, Sloan School of Business at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Professor of Sociology at Hebrew University; Uri Dorchin, Visiting Assistant Professor at the UCLA Y&S Nazarian Center for Israel Studies; and Assaf Bondy, Y&S Nazarian Center Postdoctoral Fellow.

About the Program

This webinar brings together scholars who will discuss the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on Israelis society through a sociological lens. With a population of more than 9 million people, Israel ranks as one of the world's most advanced countries in terms of technology and innovation but has been hit hard by the pandemic and shutdown of wide swaths of its economy.

In a conversation hosted by Nazarian Center Visiting Professor Uri Dorchin, we will hear from sociologist Gad Yair (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and MIT) on the strengths and challenges in the Israeli response to the crisis and the ways different groups in Israeli society reacted, from its first weeks to the present. Professor Yair will discuss the strong compliance of Israeli publics with governmental regulations (re: distancing, closure); challenges posed by ultra-orthodox communities; and the extreme medical fight to hold death to the minimum possible number – and compare and contrast Israel’s response with situations in the United States. Nazarian Center scholar Dr. Assaf Bondy will shed light on the different ways COVID-19 has affected Israeli workers and employers, as well as its implications for the Israeli welfare state. 

Event originally recorded May 11, 2020.

About the Participants

Dr. Assaf Bondy is a sociologist, who studies the political-economy of labor and industrial relations systems in advanced economies. As the Y&S Nazarian Center Postdoctoral Fellow, Bondy analyzes trade-union strategies and their revitalization, comparing the US and the Israeli contexts through a sectoral perspective.

Prior to joining the center, Bondy was a Lady-Davis Postdoctoral fellow at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem (Israel) and a research fellow in the ERC project Trafflab – “Labor Perspective for Human Trafficking”, at Tel-Aviv University. He has also worked with NGOs and trade unions in Israel as an activist and consultant.


Dr. Uri Dorchin is a Visiting Assistant Professor at the UCLA Y&S Nazarian Center for Israel Studies. In 2018-19, he served as the Israel Institute Visiting Assistant Professor at the Nazarian Center and previously held the Efroymson Fellowship for Visiting Israeli Scholars in the Department of Jewish, Islamic and Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at Washington University in St. Louis.

Dorchin’s research explores cosmopolitan cultural interactions and their implications in contemporary Israeli society. More specifically, his work explores popular culture and its relation to fluid affiliations among Israelis (citizens and non-citizens) across national, ethnic, and racial categories of belonging.


Dr. Gad Yair, Professor of Sociology, is on sabbatical at Sloan School of Business at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as an Israel Institute Visiting Professor. He regularly serves in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Professor Yair published seven books and about ninety papers, many of which revolve around Israeli culture, education and academe. He also served in various administrative tasks, including chair of his department, deputy dean and head of a research institute.