yaakov edri 88.
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Israel's 22nd health minister, Kadima MK Ya'acov Edri, was presented on his first day at work Thursday with a 479-page book, published by the Defense Ministry, on Israel's health system. As his term of office ends in about 10 weeks (unless his appointment is renewed after the elections), he may leave office before he finishes the book.
Edri, 55, was born in Morocco, is married with two grown daughters and is a non-smoker, unlike several of his predecessors. He served four terms as mayor of Or Akiva, until 2002, and was elected to the Knesset in 2003.
Edri was described by people who worked with him in his previous position as deputy internal security minister as soft-spoken and a "mentsch who cares about social issues." He was introduced to senior health system staffers in the basement of a synagogue across the street from the apartment building that houses the ministry in the San Simon neighborhood of Jerusalem.
Seven hours after Edri's meeting with health system workers, he went to Sheba Hospital in Tel Hashomer to see six of the wounded from the suicide bombing in Tel Aviv.
"This is one of the most sensitive, complicated and difficult portfolios," Health Ministry director-general Prof. Avi Yisraeli told his new boss. "It deals with a wide variety of fields from hospitals to food to cosmetics, with issues from avian flu to smoking to obesity, and it has a major influence on the economy."
He told Edri that the health professionals he would be working with were among the best and most expert in the world, adding: "It can be very frustrating, but I'm sure you'll fall in love with the ministry."
Outgoing health minister Dan Naveh, who held the office for three years - more than the average - said he knew Edri had social sensitivity and a caring nature that made him "suitable for the job."
Naveh gave Edri five pieces of advice: Remember that you represent sick people who are powerless to fight for themselves; when you get your first call from the Treasury's budgets division, say "No!" immediately and then think about it; regard health system workers as partners rather than as foes; don't expect to be praised, especially by the media; and after studying the issues, choose three or four major targets in which you want to make a difference.
Edri responded by praising Naveh's political skills and dedication to health issues. He said he would not disclose his plans until he learned the issues, met senior personnel and toured the hospitals.
Edri also sent prayers for the recovery of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Looking at Hadassah Medical Organization director-general Prof. Shlomo Mor-Yosef in the audience, he gave his "complete backing" to the Hadassah medical staff treating Sharon for his massive stroke and said the prime minister was "in the most capable hands."