‘It goes to some very dark places’: Health expert on rising threats against her

After getting bodyguard, top COVID official Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis says the growing abuse she faces is ‘scary’ but she has no intention of taking a step back

Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, head of public health services, is accompanied by a security guard as she walks out of a hearing at the Tel Aviv Magistrates' Court, on October 31, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, head of public health services, is accompanied by a security guard as she walks out of a hearing at the Tel Aviv Magistrates' Court, on October 31, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

A top health official has spoken out about the threats and abuse being directed at her, days after she was assigned a bodyguard over what authorities believe to be an increased level of danger to her safety.

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.

Visiting the studios of major new networks channels 12 and 13 on Friday, Alroy-Preis admitted that the threats were “scary” but said she had no intention of taking a step back from the public spotlight as a result.

“I don’t think it’s reasonable that a public servant working in the health system should have an escort when they go out [to work] at 6 a.m.,” she told Channel 12.

Alroy-Preis has been under a certain level of threat for months, and had been given a panic button by police, but only in recent days got her own bodyguard.

The increased threats “began surrounding the issue of children’s vaccination, when it began being discussed there came an entire wave of very clear threats, to hang [me], to burn, etcetera.”

She provided further details on Channel 13: “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.”

Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, head of public health services at the Health Ministry, speaks during a press conference in Jerusalem, on June 23, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

She said the abuse has so far been limited to online hate and harassing messages sent to her phone — sometimes dozens of texts from multiple people at once.

“‘God pays back evil people like you,'” she read out one message in the studio.

“‘The death sentence should be brought back just for you,'” said another.

Alroy-Preis stressed that she also gets a great deal of support from the public and that those who come up to her on the street are always positive. “The negative people are apparently good on their keyboards,” she said.

She added that she had not considered stepping back from her role as a result of the abuse. “I don’t think it’s right to leave nine million people without an address due to this tiny number of insane people,” she said.

But to top doctor expressed hope that police would be able to sniff out the ringleaders behind her targeting.

“It’s not a fluke that in one moment I get dozens of text messages from different people” with threats or verbal abuse,” Alroy-Preis told Channel 12.

Tuesday saw police arrest and question two men from northern Israel over suspected online threats against Alroy-Preis. They were later released under certain restrictions, and the investigation is ongoing.

“We take a grave view of any publication directed against public servants,” police said on Thursday. “We will act with all means available to bring the suspects to justice.”

Police have since ordered a full-time security detail to Alroy-Preis.

Public Security Minister Omer Barlev, whose ministry oversees the police, told Kan news on Sunday that Alroy-Preis was currently classified as “highly threatened.” He said the ministry would consider providing security for other senior health officials if necessary.

Protests held outside Alroy-Preis’s home earlier this year included chants of “Nazi murderer” and “daughter of the devil,” while some in attendance wore yellow stars comparing COVID restrictions to the Holocaust.

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