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Anti-vaxxer’s gravestone accusing hospital of murder edited amid legal threat

The widower of Rachel Reish says he was opposed to the inflammatory inscription from the start and ordered it covered up

The original gravestone (right) and the edited version (left) seen at the Yarkon Cemetery in Petah Tikva. (Screenshot)
The original gravestone (right) and the edited version (left) seen at the Yarkon Cemetery in Petah Tikva. (Screenshot)

A gravestone epitaph that accused a hospital of murdering a woman who died of coronavirus last month has been covered up by her family after the hospital filed a police complaint.

The image of the original gravestone spread rapidly in Israeli media earlier this week, sparking an outcry among hospital and medical officials. The inscription asserted that Rachel Reish was “murdered in the Beilinson Hospital coronavirus ward,” and called on God to “avenge her blood,” a common Hebrew phrase generally used for murder victims.

But in images circulated on Wednesday, the incendiary phrases on the gravestone at Yarkon Cemetery in Petah Tikva were covered up by a marble slab. Rachel’s husband, Shlomo Reish, told media outlets that he was opposed to the inscription from the start and sought to have it changed even before the legal threat from Beilinson Hospital.

“I didn’t write it, I was against it and we argued with my son-in-law when we realized what he wanted to write,” Shlomo told 103FM radio earlier this week. The widower said he was under the impression the family had agreed not to include the inflammatory words, “but when we arrived at the cemetery after 30 days, I saw that it was written, and I sent someone to erase what he wrote.”

Shlomo said he still had complaints about the care his wife, who was not vaccinated, received at Beilinson Hospital, and said her treatment was “not fitting for the State of Israel.” He also rejected the hospital’s description of her condition upon being admitted and suggested she did not die of coronavirus.

Beilinson said that septuagenarian Rachel Reish “arrived at the hospital unvaccinated after she was treated at home for a significant time. She was admitted with a heart attack and a pulmonary embolism and died of a serious case of COVID.”

After images of the original gravestone circulated, the hospital slammed the family’s decision and called the language inciting and slanderous.

“The hospital is shocked by the inscription on the gravestone and is disgusted by the severe and inciting words, which have no factual basis,” it said in a statement.

Shlomo Reish told the Walla news site that he received a letter from the hospital threatening legal action. “I received a letter with five pages telling me that I had 72 hours to change the gravestone, but I had already changed it a day earlier.”

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz also condemned the epitaph.

“It’s horrible and a disgrace, and a terrible injustice to the health system,” he told the Kan public broadcaster. “I give my support to all the hospitals. The doctors have prevented the deaths of thousands of people from the coronavirus. Unfortunately there is harassment and it stems from fake news and incitement. But we are fighting against it.”

More than 8,000 Israelis have died of COVID-19 since the beginning of the outbreak last year. Over 75% of the deaths have been among those over age 70.

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