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Rabbi who founded kidney donation organization seriously ill with coronavirus

Avraham Yeshayahu Heber, 55, on a ventilator after contracting disease; was meant to celebrate initiative’s 800th transplant this week

Rabbi Avraham Yeshayahu Heber, founder of the "Matnat Chaim" organization, at the courtroom of the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court on September 25, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Rabbi Avraham Yeshayahu Heber, founder of the "Matnat Chaim" organization, at the courtroom of the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court on September 25, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A rabbi who founded a kidney donation organization has been hospitalized in serious condition with the novel coronavirus.

Rabbi Avraham Yeshayahu Heber, 55, himself a kidney recipient, has been sedated and on a ventilator at Jerusalem’s Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital. He contracted the virus several days ago and his condition worsened Monday.

Heber, founder of Matnat Chaim (Gift of Life in Hebrew), an organization that facilitates voluntary kidney donations in Israel, was set to celebrate the initiative’s 800th transplant this week.

Recently, Blue and White MK Chili Tropper donated a kidney in a life-saving procedure for a man he does not know through Heber’s organization.

A statement shared on social media on Monday night, including by several Israeli journalists and politicians, urged those who have recovered from the coronavirus to urgently donate plasma for Heber’s recovery (type A or AB) at the Jerusalem hospital.

President Reuven Rivlin on Monday asked for prayers for Heber’s health, calling him a “man of good deeds and love of mankind.”

In 2017, police launched an investigation into Heber on suspicion of organ trafficking but closed the case without charge a year later.

Heber has been honored by Israel’s Health Ministry and hospitals for his work.

As of Tuesday, 11,868 virus cases were reported in Israel, with 136 patients on ventilators in serious condition. There have been 118 deaths from the virus, including former Sephardic chief rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron, who was laid to rest on Monday.

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