Israel’s next coronavirus czar named as former IDF medical chief Nachman Ash

Ex-surgeon general of the military also served in senior position at Maccabi healthcare services; Gamzu to return to Tel Aviv’s Ichilov hospital in November as planned

Nachman Ash at a welcoming ceremony for an Israeli military delegation in Japan on April 12, 2011. (IDF spokesperson)
Nachman Ash at a welcoming ceremony for an Israeli military delegation in Japan on April 12, 2011. (IDF spokesperson)

A former chief medical officer of the Israel Defense Forces who also served as a director at a leading HMO will replace Ronni Gamzu as the coronavirus czar, the Prime Minister’s Office and Health Ministry said in a joint statement on Tuesday.

Nachman Ash has been tapped to spearhead the country’s efforts in the pandemic when the incumbent makes the long-planned move back to his job at Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital in November.

Ash will begin in the position on Wednesday to allow for some overlap with Gamzu.

The role of coronavirus czar has included increasing levels of coordination between the ministry and the military, as the IDF has taken over the country’s contact tracing system.

In addition to his medical qualifications, Ash has a graduate degree in Medical Informatics from a joint program of Harvard and MIT, as well as a master’s degree in political science.

Until recently he was the medical division director at Maccabi Healthcare Services and taught at the Ariel University in the West Bank.

Prof. Ronni Gamzu at his office near the central Israeli city of Lod, September 24, 2020 (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

Prior to Gamzu’s appointment it took weeks to fill the post of coronavirus czar as potential candidates dropped out, fearing they would not have enough authority to set policy.

There were frequent reports that Gamzu planned to resign from the position before his term was up due to clashes with the government and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Gamzu said last month that barring any major developments, he planned to return to his job managing the hospital on November 1 and urged his replacement to view the crisis as a long-term battle with no quick fixes.

“It’s hard work,” he said. “Do not declare victory. Do not declare failure. Go ahead and continue to fight.”

Agencies contributed to this report.

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