Top Brain Specialist Left Israel Because ‘it is becoming undemocratic’
Zion Zibly says that more senior medical staff have talked to him about moving abroad because of the divide in society over the government’s plan to change the way courts work. The health minister is “deeply troubled” by this trend.
One of Israel’s top brain specialists said he left the country earlier this year due to the “extremist” government’s deep societal divisions, which he believes are irreparable, and that other senior doctors have contacted him to follow his lead.
Former Tel Hashomer Hospital neurological department head Zion Zibly moved to Connecticut two months ago to work at Yale School of Medicine.
Zibly told Kan on Monday that he worried about raising his children in an increasingly undemocratic Israel. Due to the government’s judiciary reforms, thousands of doctors have expressed interest in moving abroad.
Zibly declined several overseas relocation offers. When the Yale Medical Faculty dean approached him earlier this year, his desire to stay in his country had diminished enough to accept.
He said he was concerned about the legal system, society, and the economy.
Israel is no place for my daughters, Zibly said. They grew up in a country with Jewish democratic values, and it is becoming undemocratic and [more] Jewish—not in the direction of my Jewishness, but in a way that dictates my Jewishness.
Netanyahu’s coalition includes the right-wing Likud, two ultra-Orthodox parties, and the far-right Religious Zionism and Otzma Yehudit parties.
Zibly said it goes beyond the overhaul. I see a tear in society that I think will never heal.
No, I don’t think so. I wouldn’t take all my stuff and move the family from a place they love to a place I don’t know if they’ll like.
Zibly has not set a return date, admitting that his emigration may be permanent. Kan did not say when Yale offered or when Zibly accepted.
At a health conference on Tuesday, Health Minister Moshe Arbel expressed his concern over doctors leaving the country.
I won’t give up any of them, he said, adding that doctors are partners in the Israeli health system’s success and that I don’t belittle anyone who doesn’t consider Israel home.
Arbel suggested using the Knesset’s summer recess for coalition-opposition talks on the judicial overhaul. We are brothers. We don’t get torn apart, he said.
According to Channel 12, Health Ministry director-general Moshe Bar Siman Tov is preparing a report on the number of Israeli doctors who are leaving or have left after fellowships abroad.
He wants hospitals to report on whether doctors are strongly leaning toward either option.
Opposition Leader Yair Lapid has demanded an 18-month overhaul legislation freeze before renewing talks hosted by President Isaac Herzog, which failed earlier this year. The coalition rejected that request.
The nation’s largest doctors union would hold a relocation meeting Tuesday.
After the Knesset passed a law to limit court oversight of the government last week, 3,000 doctors joined a WhatsApp group for advice on moving abroad.
In response to the law that ended courts’ ability to strike down cabinet and ministerial decisions based on “reasonableness,” the Israel Medical Association staged a one-day strike last week, leaving public health facilities understaffed. Later, a labor court ordered healthcare workers back to work.
Public health workers say the government’s judicial overhaul will hurt their field.The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has warned that Israel will soon run out of doctors.
In June, the organization warned of doctor shortages as early as 2025, saying Israel lacks a medical manpower management system. Israel was advised to increase medical student enrollment and accredit a new medical school.
The government and its supporters say the judicial overhaul is needed to rein in an overreaching court system, but opponents say it will shackle the courts’ ability to check and balance the Knesset, threatening Israel’s democracy.
Massive demonstrations against the overhaul plan for months.