As Israel tried to return to a normal routine post-coronavirus and braced for a potential second wave, Health Ministry Director-General Moshe Bar-Siman-Tov on Monday informed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he is resigning his post.
Bar Siman Tov, the man most familiar with Israel's national effort against coronavirus, said he was proud of his service and especially during the pandemic.
"In this period while we are in the process of returning to normal times following the coronavirus pandemic, with more economic and social activity resuming, I would like to inform you of my resignation from the position of Director-General of the Health Ministry," Bar-Siman-Tov wrote to Netanyahu.
"Public service is the greatest privilege and after almost 20 years of service it is time to move on," he said.
The departing official thanked the prime minister for the opportunity given him and expressed his appreciation of the handling of the crisis by the government.
"We had set two goals at the beginning of the pandemic: One was to ensure everyone needing treatment would receive it and the other was that Israel's achievements in the handling of the crisis would be among the best in the world - and we have achieved both," Bar-Siman-Tov wrote.
The facts, he said, were indisputable, and thousands of lives had been saved as a result of the excellent health services and the public's responsible behavior.
"You need only look at New York or countries in Europe that are counting their dead as they are faced with the need to decide who to save," he said.
He warned, however, of a second wave of the virus that might challenge the health system, which he said must be strengthened and prepared so that it would be able to face any scenario.
"We must not take these achievements for granted and the work is not yet completed," Bar-Siman-Tov said.
He said that he was "willing to stay on for as long as is necessary and pass the torch to my replacement,"
Bar-Siman-Tov also thanked Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, who appointed him to the position.
"I believe his years in office will be remembered as a time of action to advance the country's health system," he said.
Along with the director of public health at the Health Ministry, Prof. Sigal Sadetzki, Bar-Siman-Tov consistently called for the most conservative measures against the virus during vernment and ministry discussions.
Bar-Siman-Tov has come under harsh criticism from government ministers and officials for the hardline measures he spearheaded to combat the deadly pathogen and over his newfound public fame.
Numerous ministers have also criticized the Health Ministry chief for relaying new directives to the public before they were approved by the government.
Health officials said that in recent weeks, Bar-Siman-Tov had a falling-out with Litzman, who is also departing the ministry.