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Bennett pans 'anti-vaxxers' behind intimidation

Top health official’s husband chides police for inaction on death threats

Police say they’ve launched a probe into threats against Sharon Alroy-Preis; partner Meir Preis tweets: ‘Act now, before it’s too late!’

Amy Spiro is a reporter and writer with The Times of Israel.

Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis (right), head of public health services at the Health Ministry, at a press conference in Jerusalem on August 29, 2021, alongside Nachman Ash, director-general of the Health Ministry. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis (right), head of public health services at the Health Ministry, at a press conference in Jerusalem on August 29, 2021, alongside Nachman Ash, director-general of the Health Ministry. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The husband of a top government health official said Thursday that there are credible, violent threats against his wife that must be immediately addressed.

Meir Preis, the husband of Health Ministry head of public health services Sharon Alroy-Preis, posted a tweet Thursday morning directed at the accounts of the police and the public security minister.

“I am turning directly to you,” he wrote. “There are concrete threats against the life of my wife (Sharon Alroy-Preis). You know this, there are messages on social media, there are phone numbers, there are clear threatening phone calls. You have the materials. This is the time to act, now, before it’s too late!”

In response, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett issued a statement condemning the threats and the “anti-vaxxers” behind them.

“The fake [news] war by anti-vaxxers against Dr. Alroy-Preis must stop,” Bennett said.

“Vaccines are Israel’s ‘Iron Dome’ against the coronavirus,” he added, likening the shots to an Israeli air defense system that intercepts missiles. The vaccines “are life-saving and enable us to keep Israel open and functioning. Ignore the fake [news], go get vaccinated.”

Anti-vaccination protesters are seen outside the home of Sharon Alroy-Preis, the head of public health services in the Health Ministry, on July 28, 2021. (Screenshot: Channel 12)

Public Security Minister Omer Barlev also condemned the threats and said he had faith in police to find those responsible.

“I completely and fully condemn the threats against Dr. Alroy-Preis,” said Barlev. “There is no room for this kind of discourse against anyone, and certainly not against public servants and experts in their field like Dr. Alroy-Preis.”

Barlev, whose ministry oversees the police, said that so far three complaints have been filed in relation to such threats “and they are currently under investigation. I am confident that the Israel Police will complete the investigation in a serious manner and get to the root of the issue.”

Salman Zarka, the government’s coronavirus czar, called on police to take the threats seriously and protect Alroy-Preis.

“I call on authorities to do everything necessary to counter the threats against her,” Zarka told the Kan public broadcaster on Thursday. “I support the words of Sharon’s husband. What is needed here is real care, so that she and others in the health care system can operate professionally.”

Hours after Preis’s tweet, police confirmed they had opened an investigation into the threats.

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

Alroy-Preis, one of the government’s top COVID advisers, has faced threats and attacks for many months. She has been a particular target of anti-vaccine activists and those who chafe against the government’s pandemic restrictions.

Head of public health services in the Health Ministry, Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, during an undated government meeting. (Knesset Spokesperson)

In August, Alroy-Preis revealed that she had been given a panic button by authorities to alert police of any potential danger, following continued harassment and threats by antivaxxers.

“These aren’t easy days, you need to remember that aside from being a public worker I am also a human being, with a family,” she told Channel 12 news at the time. “When my 7-year-old son asks me why people stood by the house and called me a ‘child killer,’ it’s very difficult.”

“The discourse has descended into an abusive, violent, shallow, and degrading form and something needs to be done about it,” she said.

Protests held outside her 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.

In late August, an anti-vaccine activist was indicted for issuing death threats against Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton and her family.

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