Israel's deputy Health Minister MK Ya'acov Litzman is well known in the Jewish world for saying that Jews should call the current H1N1 influenza outbreak Mexican flu instead of swine flu because pigs are not kosher. I don't think anyone can argue that this was a dumb comment (although a week later the WHO also said it should be called Mexican flu to prevent the collapse of the international pork trade).
What's less well known is that Litzman is a competent beaurocrat who organized the Israeli public health department after news of the outbreak and efficiently prepared for the arrival of swine flu in Israel via returning travelers. Naturally, doing his job well did not make the news as if often the case.
But Litzman has gone further and credit must be given where it is owed:
Deputy Health Minister MK Ya'acov Litzman ignored the advice of Ambassador to the UN in Geneva Aharon Leshno-Yaar, when he walked out during the Iranian health minister's speech at the World Health Organization meeting last week.
But Litzman, a United Torah Judaism lawmaker with a mind of his own, thought it was the proper thing to do in view of Iranian leaders' frequent calls for the destruction of the State of Israel, he told The Jerusalem Post Thursday, after his return.
It has become a regular occurence for Iran to use any ascent to an international speaking podium to execrate Israel for sins the fevered Perisan mind has deluded itself into believing. m The walk out was also significant if one recalls that since 1948 Muslim countries have made it their policy to walk out of any meetings in which a (non-Satmar) Israeli speaks. Sitting through anti-Semitic tirades should be no less tolerated by Jews. By walking out, Litzman chose to display both Jewish and Israeli pride. But what's more, unlike many who think that Orthodox Jews should abandon what makes us different (even as they praise multiculturalism in every other ethnic group they can find), Litzman had no trouble showing up at the event as a very identifiable Jew and without any discomfort:
Litzman said he had felt completely comfortable despite his hassidic garb.
"They have seen hassidim before, and I was personally introduced to many health ministers before my speech," said Litzman, who was raised in New York and speaks fluent English. Among them was Brazilian Health Minister José Gomes Temporão, who said he was planning to visit Israel soon.
After some Arab ministers walked out, Litzman noted that Israel provided medical care to its Arab citizens as well as to patients from the Palestinian Authority who need treatment unavailable there, and that terrorists who try to murder Israelis and survive often lie in the same hospital wards with their wounded victims.
In Geneva, where the H1N1 swine flu strain was a major topic of discussion, Litzman said he was concerned the virus could combine by next winter with the newest human strains, making dealing with it more complicated.
He will suggest to ministry officials that Israelis of all ages be urged to get vaccinated in the fall, and not only young children, the middle-aged and the elderly.
Litzman said he was well received at the WHO event and that Israel had a very good reputation in healthcare and research, even though an anti-Israel resolution had been raised by Palestinians at the assembly on health of Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and the Golan Heights.
Yaakov Litzman is an example of what drives secularists crazy. Despite his loyalty to an "archaic" religious system, despite dressing like an "18th century Polish landlord" he has proved to be a competent deputy health minister and has managed to interact positively with all those dreaded goyim that we routinely diminish out Jewishness in front of so that they'll like us more. In order words, he's a refutation of those that oppose our insistence on remaining true to the faith of our fathers. Kol hakovad to him.