Health Minister Ya'acov Litzman informed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday that he seeks to be appointed Housing and Construction Minister after leaving his current role, stating that he wishes to deal with the country’s housing crisis. The extremely high prices of property in Tel Aviv, the central district and Jerusalem have been highlighted as one of the most serious societal and economic problems facing the country for several years. This crisis has also afflicted the ultra-Orthodox community, and led many to move out to the country’s periphery in the north and south, but reducing their employment opportunities in doing so. The Gerrer hassidic community of which Litzman is a member has sizeable property investments and assets and it is believed that the grand rabbi of the Gerrer community Rabbi Yaakov Aryeh Alter told Litzman that he should take this ministry so as to be better able to assist in this regard. Litzman has come under fire over his handling of the coronavirus epidemic, including his initial disinclination to force ultra-Orthodox institutions to shutter, leading to an extraordinary public letter from his own ministry’s legal adviser telling him to close them down. Litzman was also criticized for reportedly violating the orders of his own ministry by praying in a public prayer service, and was subsequently diagnosed with COVID-19. During his tenure as health minister, Litzman also faced criticism over several other scandals, including police charges that he tampered with witnesses in the Malka Leifer scandal, allegations of impropriety regarding tobacco advertising, and most recently his cancellation of a closure order for a failing mental health institute. According to an opinion poll from Channel 13 News last week, 67% of the general public is dissatisfied with Litzman’s performance as health minister. Litzman however defended his record in tackling the coronavirus epidemic, and as health minister in general. He noted for example that the health ministry recommended closing the country to foreign citizens from China and the far-east at an early stage of the coronavirus pandemic, a step which other countries were slower in taking. “We have made many achievements, taken control of the number of ill and dead [from COVID-19], an increase in the number of tests, and public adherence to the social-distancing orders which have saved lives,” said the minister in a statement his office issued on Sunday. “As someone who has stood in recent years as the head of Israel’s health system, I can say fully and with certainty that our health system is strong and stable,” said Litzman.In particular, Litzman pointed to the reforms carried out during his tenure as minister, including in the realm of dental care for under 18s, the availability of MRI machines, increasing the ministry’s budget to an all-time high, and “doubling” the medicines subsidized by the state.“Life expectancy in Israel is high compared to most countries in the world. Despite the challenges and complexities, and although there are steps to be taken and issues that need to be improved to optimize the system, the Israeli health system is still one of the leaders compared to other countries around the world, and in relation to its position a decade ago,” the outgoing minister said.