Top health officials condemn death threats against public health chief – The Times of Israel

Top health officials on Sunday condemned deaths threats against a senior Health Ministry official that have become so severe she has been given 24-hour protection, and placed the blame on anti-vaccine activists.

Health Ministry Director-General Nachman Ash said that the hounding of  Sharon Alroy-Preis, head of public health at the ministry, “should be condemned and action must taken against it.” He told Radio 103FM that he hoped police would catch the culprits.

Ash said he had spoken to Alroy-Preis the night before, and that though she is having a “hard time,” she has no intention of giving up her position.

Ash revealed he is also getting threats but that they are “much less” substantial than those leveled at Alroy-Preis. “I don’t feel that I’m in danger,” he said.

Ash said those behind the threats are members of a group that opposes vaccination, especially the vaccination of children. Their menacing approach, he said, was “irrational,” because they surely couldn’t believe that forcing a health official to change their position would actually stop the country’s vaccination drive.

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Israel, which already offers a three-dose vaccination regimen for ages 12 and over, is poised to begin inoculating children aged 5-11 following last week’s approval by the US Food and Drug Administration of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for that age group.

Israelis protest against the government’s vaccination and Green Pass policies, in Tel Aviv, on October 30, 2021. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

The Israel Police and Health Ministry confirmed Saturday that Alroy-Preis had been given a full-time security detail due to the threats against her.

The move came after Alroy-Preis’s husband posted a tweet Thursday directed at the police and the public security minister, asserting that there were credible, violent threats against his wife that must be immediately addressed.

In response, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett issued a statement condemning the threats and the antivaxxers he said were behind them.

Hours after Meir Preis’s tweet, police confirmed they had opened an investigation into the threats.

Alroy-Preis, one of the government’s top COVID-19 advisers, has faced threats and attacks for months. She has been a particular target of anti-vaccine activists and those who chafe against the government’s pandemic restrictions.

In August, she revealed that she had been given a panic button by authorities to alert police of any potential danger, following continued harassment and threats by antivaxxers. Protests held outside her home earlier this year included chants of “Nazi murderer” and “daughter of the devil,” while some in attendance wore yellow stars comparing COVID restrictions to the Holocaust.

Coronavirus czar Salman Zarka also slammed the threats against health officials, saying Sunday that the public’s attitude toward the outbreak was problematic.

Coronavirus czar Prof. Salman Zarka attends a press conference about the coronavirus, in Jerusalem, on August 29, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

“You can’t control a pandemic while under threats,” Zarka told Army Radio. “This is not just a health problem, but a countrywide problem.

“In a democratic country, where senior health care officials have been working for two years to save us from the danger of the coronavirus, Dr. Alroy-Preis needs to walk around with a security guard? That’s unthinkable,” Zarka fumed.

On Sunday, Alroy-Preis arrived at the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court, closely escorted by a security guard. Armed police officers were also deployed in the street when her car arrived, protecting her as she left the vehicle and entered the courthouse.

Alroy-Preis is facing a NIS 150,000 ($47,000) lawsuit by four senior doctors who took part in a documentary titled “And What If the Whole World Is Wrong.” Released at the beginning of the year, the film criticized the previous government, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, for its handling of the third wave of infections, and in particular for ordering the country into a lockdown.

Alroy-Preis responded to the video at the time by saying those who participated in it are “coronavirus deniers and antivaxxers” who were trying to disrupt public faith in the health system. Her remarks prompted the doctors to sue her.

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