The cabinet on Sunday gave its final approval to the appointment of Prof. Chezy Levy, the outgoing director of Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center, as the new Health Ministry director-general.
“I humbly accept the position and thank the health minister, Mr. Yuli Edelstein, for choosing me,” Levy said as he entered the role.
“I will continue to lead the professional battle against the coronavirus pandemic and will work to ensure adequate and compassionate health care services,” he added.
Newly installed Health Minister Yuli Edelstein thanked the ministers for approving his chosen candidate, saying Levy “has much experience in the health system — in the Israel Defense Forces, at the hospital and at the Health Ministry.
“I am confident that he will be of great service leading the health system during the challenging time we are facing, particularly in dealing with the coronavirus,” Edelstein said.
He thanked the outgoing director, Moshe Bar Siman-Tov, for his “dedicated work” and for helping Edelstein himself become sufficiently informed when he became minister last month.
Bar Siman-Tov led government efforts in coordinating the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic. He announced his resignation last month after the new minister was appointed.
Levy, 64, is a retired brigadier general in the IDF, where he served as chief medical officer until 2007. A veteran of the First Lebanon War, he headed or participated in IDF humanitarian missions to Kosovo, Zaire, Kenya, Macedonia, Turkey and Rwanda.
He went on to serve as a senior official in the Health Ministry before becoming Barzilai’s director, during which time he was responsible for the development and construction of the hospital’s bombproof underground emergency room and surgical wards.
The ministry nominated Levy last month, praising him for his “extensive experience in emergency medicine,” which it described as one of the factors that led to his selection.
“At such a time, with the need to prepare for the second wave of the coronavirus and to make the health system Israel’s top priority, Prof. Chezy Levy is the right person for the job,” Edelstein said.
Former health minister Yaakov Litzman also welcomed Levy’s appointment, praising his “abilities and experience” and declaring that his appointment would be “for the benefit of the health system and citizens of Israel, especially at this time.”
The Civil Service Commission earlier this month signed off on Levy’s candidacy for the job.
While leading Israel’s response to COVID-19, Levy’s predecessor Bar Siman-Tov frequently gave media interviews and appeared alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during televised statements to announce new government directives.
As the Health Ministry’s top bureaucrat, Bar Siman-Tov was responsible for leading many of the tough early steps to restrict Israel’s public life, and was initially credited for spearheading the country’s efficient response that prevented mass infection. Litzman was largely absent from public view throughout the crisis and also contracted the virus.
Bar Siman-Tov, an economist, was the first non-doctor to lead the Health Ministry.