Israeli Legislator Conceals Meeting Party Officials in Epidemiological Investigation

The Knesset member, Israel Eichler, had been at political meeting two days before announcing he had contracted COVID-19

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MK Israel Eichler of United Torah Judaism in the Knesset.
MK Israel Eichler of United Torah Judaism in the Knesset in 2018.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

An ultra-Orthodox Israeli lawmaker concealed from the Health Ministry a meeting he had held with numerous party officials during an epidemiological investigation he was undergoing.

The Knesset member, Israel Eichler of United Torah Judaism, announced last Thursday that he had contracted the virus. Two days earlier, he had taken part in a meeting with activists from Agudat Yisrael, one of the partners in United Torah Judaism, to discuss struggles taking place within that party. The meeting was held in a small and crowded room, attended by Eichler, Deputy Education Minister Meir Porush, the mayors of Betar Ilit and Elad, Meir Rubinstein and Israel Porush, respectively, former candidate for Jerusalem mayor, Yossi Deutsch, and other party officials.

Footage of the meeting shows all participants wearing masks. However, food and glasses seen on the table suggest that at least some participants removed their masks for part of the meeting.

When Eichler underwent an epidemiological investigation on Thursday, he neglected to mention the other participants at last Tuesday’s meeting. He did report the names of family members and five people he had met: the chairman of the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, MK Yakov Asher, who has already had corona and was therefore exempt from going into isolation, two of his assistants, Meir Porush and one other person.

Deputy Minister Porush went into isolation, subsequently taking two tests which came out negative. Other participants did not register as going into quarantine but did take a coronavirus test. Betar Ilit’s mayor continues to walk around freely. When people ask, Rubinstein says that he had a positive serological test in the past, exempting him from going into isolation. However, he has no formal confirmation of this assertion, and he cannot exempt himself from going into isolation in the absence of such a document from the Health Ministry.

Eichler’s office commented: “MK Eichler informed the Knesset Officer as soon as he was found to be positive for the virus, later giving details during his epidemiological investigation about meetings he had attended. MK Eichler answered all the questions put to him as a coronavirus-infected person, including ones about the meeting at the offices of Agudat Yisrael with Rabbi Porush, about which he informed investigators. The meeting was public knowledge and filmed, and documentation from the meeting was published in various places. No one tried to conceal anything.”

Meir Rubinstein’s office has not yet responded.

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