Born in Jerusalem, Shmuel Shapira MD MPH was head of the Israel Institute for Biological Research, a leading governmental security institution, between 2013 and 2021. A professor of medicine at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Shapira is an expert in terrorism medicine, and in risk and disaster management. A colonel (Reserves) in the Israel Defense Forces, Prof. Shapira is a former Vice President of the Hadassah Medical Center. A former head of the Hebrew University’s School of Public Health, Shapira also founded the Tzameret Military Medical Program, based in the university’s Faculty of Medicine. He sits on several national committees engaged with emergency preparedness, response, and risk management, and lectures on these topics around the world. In The Jerusalem Post’s round-up of the most influential Jews of 2020, Shapira was ranked second.
Title in translation: Science Vs. Politics Battle: Israel and Covid
Publisher: Yedioth books
Hebrew Title: The Pandemic Circus
Translation rights: World
Audio visual rights: World
Translation: Partial English; long synopsis in English available
“Every disaster movie starts with the politicians ignoring a scientist”
Usually, the constant threat of war highlights positive aspects of the Israeli reality: national unity, volunteering, solidarity. But the coronavirus pandemic flooded the communal space with hostility and suspicion. The pandemic uncovered incompetence in government, evasiveness, venality, a political space lacking leadership by personal example, over-politicization, egotism, and tribalism.
For eight years, Prof. Shmuel Shapira was head of one of the most secret institutions in Israel: the Institute for Biological Research. Nothing of this, however, prepared him for what ensued after he was tapped to lead the endeavor of a lifetime—to create an Israeli vaccine against the coronavirus. Unsurprised by the rapid onset of the virus, Shapira prepared for his task with the professionalism that the moment demanded. Nevertheless, he was caught unawares by the circus that then played out. Like many other Israelis, he could see the reality of the moment with clear eyes—and could scarcely believe what he saw and heard.
In his book, Shapira details the conclusions that he draws from his observations, with humor but also with sadness. This is a story of dedication in the face of apathy, of vision set against engrained pessimism. His story serves as a warning for the future: act now, or the next pandemic will catch us in the same situation—or worse.
“The next pandemic will occur much sooner than you think…”