Published in Israel Hayom, February 16, 2012
The UN slandered Israel this week with yet another report containing ugly charges of ‘ethnic cleansing’, ‘Judaization’, and other make-believe atrocities against the Palestinians. Meanwhile, in the real world, this is what was happening: Israeli doctors continued to treat thousands of Palestinians in Israeli hospitals and do world-class humanitarian medical work around the world.
It is sign of the hostile times that Israel gets almost no international credit for its manifold humanitarian medical activities, here or abroad.
Little is it known that Israeli hospitals regularly take-in patients from countries across the Middle East, including Arab countries that have no diplomatic relations with Israel, and from the Palestinian Authority. For example, no less than one-quarter of the patients in the Edmond & Lily Safra Children’s Hospital at the Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer are Palestinian kids from Gaza with cancer or congenital heart ailments. Hadassah in Jerusalem plays a similar role for West Bank Palestinians. Save a Child’s Heart at the Wolfson Medical Center in Holon also treats many Palestinian patients.
These Palestinians receive treatment in Israel despite the fact that the Palestinian Authority takes only partial financial responsibility for them and the patients themselves can’t afford to pay. The Peres Center for Peace and the hospitals themselves often end up covering or absorbing the costs.
This activity is all the more remarkable because Palestinians are often bedded side-by-side with Israeli Jewish patients, including Israeli victims of Arab terror and plain-old regular Israelis who think that Israel is just being “too humanitarian” in accepting Palestinian patients. ‘Let the Palestinians go for treatment to their Arab brethren in Egypt or Jordan’, some Israelis say. But of course, they can’t – because the Egyptians and Jordanians don’t regularly let Palestinians in; and the treatment in Arab countries is significantly inferior to Israeli medicine.
Thus, treating Israeli and Palestinians side by side is a delicate balancing act with attendant tensions and moral ambiguities. Yet Israeli hospitals bravely persist in this humanitarian effort with an open-door approach.
You wouldn’t know about this from the international press or from UN reports.
Israeli medical humanitarianism extends much further afield too. Just this week, the Israeli press carried stories about a 12-year-old boy from Kazakhstan with cerebral palsy undergoing surgery and lengthy rehabilitation free-of-charge at Assaf Harofeh Medical Center. Simultaneously, Sheba Medical Center is providing unlimited and very expensive skin and eye surgeries to a Christian Pastor who was attacked with acid by Islamic militants in Uganda and severely burned.
Israeli doctors are also very active and experienced in delivering medical assistance beyond Israel’s national boundaries. We all know about the outstanding IDF medical mission in Haiti after the January 2010 earthquake in that country, which was one of the few Israeli efforts abroad that indeed received positive international attention.
What is less known, is that since then, Sheba orthopedic rehabilitation physicians and physiotherapists have made more than a dozen trips to Haiti, working in impossible conditions to treat the more than 4,000 Haitians who lost limbs in the disaster. Together with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and Magen David Adom, they run a full-scale “Haitian-Israeli Rehabilitation Center” at the University Hospital in Port-au-Prince.
Another example: Israeli burns experts were the first to arrive in Romania to treat babies in critical condition after a horrible fire in a Bucharest hospital; and the first to arrive in the Congo after a massive fuel tanker explosion in 2010. Sheba doctors alone have provided international relief and medical training in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Brazil, Cambodia, China, Georgia, Equatorial Guinea, Ivory Coast, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Mauritania, Mongolia, Myanmar, Peru, Romania, Russia, Rwanda, Slovenia, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and more.
These activities stem from an abiding concern for healing and compassion that is ingrained in Jewish tradition, and from the State of Israel’s commitment to being a force for good and brotherhood in the world.
But again, you wouldn’t know any of this from the international press or from UN reports. What a shame.