Health Ministry urges security for top official accosted by protesters at her home

Demonstrator shouts insults at head of public health Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis as she walks her dog; ministry condemns ‘violent discourse’

Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, head of Public Health Services at the Health Ministry, attends a committee meeting at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, on November 16, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, head of Public Health Services at the Health Ministry, attends a committee meeting at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, on November 16, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

A top health official who played a key role in forming Israel’s response to the coronavirus pandemic was accosted Monday outside her home by demonstrators who shouted abuse at her, prompting the Health Ministry to demand she be provided security.

Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, the Health Ministry’s head of public services and a top COVID adviser to the government, has been repeatedly threatened by anti-vaccine activists and conspiracy theorists who view her as the public face of the health system’s inoculation effort. Alroy-Preis also took a stern approach to dealing with the virus spread, tending to back limiting public life to curb infections.

Alroy-Preis was ambushed by a handful of demonstrators outside her home, as she walked her dog in the morning.

A man, identified by Channel 12 news as activist leader Sadi Ben Shitrit, used a megaphone to shout at Alroy Preis, calling her “a purveyor of chaos.”

Alroy Preis did not respond to the taunts.

As the ministry official headed into her home, Ben Shitrit continued to shout, “She takes care of her dog, but ignores the suffering of our children.”

Alroy Pries’s husband, Meir Preis, later tweeted a response to the demonstrators, calling them “wretched scum.”

The Health Ministry condemned the incident, saying in a statement that it “takes a serious view of violent discourse or displays of violence of any kind.”

Alory Preis “is working day and night on behalf of the Israeli public,” said ministry director-general Nachman Ash in the statement and called on law enforcement to “restore her personal security.”

Last November, Alroy Preis was assigned a bodyguard, given concern by authorities of an increasing threat to her safety. She had previously been given a panic button by police.

In a round of media interviews that she gave at the time, Alroy Preis told Channel 13 that “it goes to some very dark places — murder, hanging, doing bad things to my children, comparisons to the Nazis, there’s no end to it.”

At the time, police arrested and questioned two men from northern Israel over suspected online threats against Alroy-Preis. They were later released under certain restrictions as the investigation proceeded.

Past protests outside her home included chants of “Nazi murderer” and “daughter of the devil,” while some in attendance wore yellow stars, comparing COVID restrictions to the Holocaust.

With the waning of a wave of infections caused by the Omicron variant, Israel has lifted almost all COVID-19 health rules, though face masks are still required in indoor public spaces.

There were 4,080 new cases diagnosed on Sunday, according to Health Ministry figures, a fraction of the over 80,000 daily caseload seen at the peak of the wave.

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