One of Israel’s top anti-vaxx activists has died of COVID-19, two days after posting a final message to his followers that ordered them to “keep fighting” against the shot that could have saved his life.
Hai Shoulian, 57, spent much of the pandemic organizing protests against coronavirus rules—including mask mandates and Israel’s vaccine-passport scheme, the Green Pass. He lost his life to COVID-19 on Monday morning after spending 10 days at Tel Aviv’s Wolfson Medical Center.
His brother, Avi, told The Daily Beast that his family felt like they had been torn apart, as he headed to his brother’s funeral on Tuesday. “Our dad used to say that every table has four legs and we were four, that was our family motto,” he said, tearfully. “And since yesterday we’re three.”
Avi said his brother’s death certificate lists the coronavirus as the cause of death. He said he decided to speak to the media to encourage his brother’s followers to take the vaccine “and save their lives.” The brother added: “I wish I managed to convince him to save his own life.”
In his last Facebook post, Hai Shoulian complained about how awful his symptoms were, but remained defiant against the vaccine.
In a video showing him receiving oxygen support, he wrote: “I’m in a very bad shape, it is serious… If I take the oxygen out I can’t walk three meters. I can’t talk or respond to people. It took me about an hour to figure out who I am. Where am I and what am I doing here… Lack of oxygen is a terrible thing.”
Despite his condition, he managed a final stand against Israel’s Green Pass, saying: “It has nothing to do with the coronavirus. It has nothing to do with vaccines. It has to do with coercion… Keep fighting.”
The anti-vaxxer’s traditional name, Hai, is intended to protect its bearer—it means “alive” in Hebrew. In his final message, he signed off: “I believe that I will make it through this, with God’s help. In my estimation it will take another two weeks, maybe three.”
Two days later, he died from the virus.
When he first fell sick last week, Shoulian claimed that police had poisoned him after he was arrested during a protest against the Green Pass. “I’m telling you, this is an attempt to wipe me out and if something happens to me know that’s exactly what happened,” he said.
Shoulian went bankrupt at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, according to his younger brother. He blames that for his brother’s decision to become a prominent anti-vaccine campaigner. “If his business had been in good shape, I still think he probably wouldn’t have gotten vaccinated,” Avi said, “but he wouldn’t have been out on the street protesting. He’d have been busy with work.”
Despite the cause listed on his brother’s death certificate, Avi tried to convince the police to order an autopsy of Shoulian’s body to rule out foul play, saying: “Another thing I suspect—and it is only a suspicion—is that he could have been poisoned not by the police but by someone else.”
Shoulian is survived by his mother, three children from a first marriage, his second wife, Yulia Kaprera, and her young son, who is entering the first grade.
National case numbers have been rising in Israel since the end of July. Only 17 percent of eligible Israelis remain unvaccinated, but they account for 65 percent of all cases of serious COVID illness, according to statistics released by the Israeli ministry of health on Tuesday.