Health Minister Yaacov Litzman and his wife on Wednesday tested positive for the coronavirus. The minister’s office announced that the minister will continue his regular schedule from home, in the Ezrat Torah neighborhood of Jerusalem, in keeping with medical recommendations.
Because of his advanced age, 71, Minister Litzman is in the high risk population in Israel, which is why he announced two weeks ago that he would not come to the Knesset because of his age and the danger of by the virus. Nevertheless, last week Litzman showed up at the Knesset and voted in favor of Benny Gantz as Knesset Speaker.
It was also reported that the minister and his wife are feeling well and will remain in isolation and under supervision in accordance with the Health Ministry’s guidelines.
The Gerrer Rebbe, Rabbi Yaakov Aryeh Alter, who will celebrate his 81st birthday this May, and the Belzer Rebbe, Rabbi Yissachar Dov Rokeach, who turned 72 last January, will also be forced into home isolation after hosting Minister Litzman in their homes for consultations.
Litzman has participated in dozens of meetings with many of Israel’s top officials in recent weeks, starting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Health Ministry’s Director General Moshe Bar Siman-Tov, and many others, who must all enter a voluntary quarantine. Also, all the minister’s staff are going into isolation, and the office is still investigating who else has met with Litzman in recent days.
The prime minister was just released from a four-day isolation yesterday, and will have to go back inside now. As will the head of Mossad, Yossi Cohen, and the head of the NSA, Meir Ben Shabbat, both of whom have met with Litzman this week.
It looks like Yaakov Litzman has functioned as the Typhoid Miriam of this pandemic, sending to quarantine many in Israel’s political and communications leadership, including Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, Defense Minister Naphtali Bennett, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri (who also just came out of isolation), Governor of the Bank of Israel Amir Yaron, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, and Police Deputy Commissioner Moti Cohen.
Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Leon and Channel 12 executives will also go into isolation, following a March 22 studio interview with Minister Litzman, as well as host Keren Marciano, reporter Yoav Even, presenter and journalist Arad Nir, reporter Amalya Duek, former CEO of Soroka Medical Center Professor Gabi Barabash, and, as we said, Moshe Leon, the mayor of Jerusalem.
Earlier this week, in an interview with Maariv, leading Haifa U. psychiatrist Professor Yoram Yovel, grandson of the acerbic scientist and philosopher Yeshayahu Leibowitz, attacked Minister Litzman’s statement in response to the coronavirus pandemic, that “our righteous Messiah will redeem us before Passover,” and said: “As a psychiatrist, I’ve hospitalized people for less than that.”
It was offensive even for the grandson of the inventor of the term “JudoNazis,” but the unrestrained insult reflected the growing mistrust of the country’s leading medical professionals in Litzman.
According to Kan 11, Litzman had been engaged this week in a fight with the leading medical authorities in his office who fiercely objected to his decision to allow the continued burial of foreign nationals who are being flown in, some on private planes. His office called the report “fake news,” arguing that Minister Litzman never imported a single body. They then explained that “the rules for bringing the corpses of corona patients from other countries have been set in a special procedure published by the heads of the public health services, in accordance with the law and strict requirements.” The office added: “We are sure that if the corona patients’ bodies were indeed brought to Israel, this was carried out according to this procedure.”
In other words, the minister never buried those bodies himself, he had a committee doing it.
This week, in a letter of apology, Yovel wrote: “I have strong criticism of the minister’s treatment of the coronavirus crisis, as well as his professional fit for the role of the minister of health at this time.” However, regarding the comment on the need to hospitalize the Minister of Health as a psychiatric case, Yovel wrote: “I apologize for these statements, which were incorrect and inappropriate.”