A Jerusalem hospital heals more than physical ailments

by Tahseen Yaqeen
05 March 2013
Ramallah – Two weeks ago, international newspaper headlines covered injured Syrians being transported to Israeli hospitals for treatment. This news reminded me of the important role medicine has played in helping me to get to know the “other,” despite a host of factors affecting relations between Israelis and Palestinians.

Thirty-five years ago, I listened to my Palestinian aunt's family express their deep appreciation for the medical staff at the Hadassah Ein Karem Hospital in the predominantly Jewish neighbourhood of West Jerusalem. They saved the life of their child, Asad, after open-heart surgery performed by Israeli surgeons.

I witnessed this same humanity and professionalism seven years later, when my cousin Bassem had open-heart surgery at the same hospital. The staff – doctors and nurses alike – were kind. A Jewish doctor and a nurse spoke to me compassionately and encouragingly about Bassem’s case, asking for God's help.

Despite the fact that the Arab-Israeli conflict is omnipresent in our thoughts, I appreciated the hospital's unparalleled humanitarian approach.

In return, I wished the Jewish patients a quick recovery. I watched the families of Palestinian and Jewish patients alike, sharing hope that their loved ones would be healed. Though sometimes limited by a language barrier, we shared feelings of compassion that could easily be sensed. One does not feel that a patient is Arab or Israeli, but a human being who deserves the care afforded to him or her.

This was one in only a handful of experiences meeting Israeli Jews. Once I met a number of soldiers who came to apprehend my cousin. Another time I worked with a Jewish trader of Iraqi origin who bought our grapes and sold them in a kiosk at the farmer’s market of Mahane Yehuda in Jerusalem. He spoke Arabic well.

But I never imagined I would one day meet Israeli Jews in the hospital, as they carefully treated my cousin, whose brother spent four years in an Israeli prison. These experiences sowed seeds of awareness for me that there can be channels of reconciliation and cooperation between Palestinians and Israelis.

In addition to my few visits to Israeli hospitals, I’ve heard other stories from Palestinians about the compassionate treatment of Arabs at Israeli hospitals which revolved around equality and professionalism.

My cousin's stories about the Israeli patients he met while visiting his brother during the 1990s in Hadassah Ein Karem Hospital, for example, indicated a sense of solidarity among Israeli and Palestinian patients and their families.

Perhaps it is difficult to read what goes on inside the hearts of Israelis, but with each new visit to see my cousin, a sense of respect between patients and staff in the hospital grew. Israelis, in general, know Arabs because they meet them in Israel where there are many Arab Israelis, but here in the hospital, the potential for friendship, cooperation and interaction with West Bank Palestinians felt greater.

Three years ago, I met an Israeli woman at a beach in Haifa whose child had Down syndrome. At the beginning, I approached them and played with the child. He responded happily, and his mother was pleased. We talked about his birth, how difficult it is to raise him, and how she has someone who helps her. We talked about our common concerns and interests. Her biggest concern was her child, and my interest in him closed the gap between us. Such things can bring us together.

With every important surgery carried out in Israeli hospitals comes the opportunity for compassion and human connections. I hope that these opportunities found in "peace medicine" can also be found outside hospitals. Such interactions can be the key to solving this conflict, and all causes of hatred and conflict.


* Tahseen Yaqeen is a writer and a critic from Ramallah. This article was written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).

Source: Common Ground News Service (CGNews), 5 March 2013, www.commongroundnews.org
Copyright permission is granted for publication.
Women of Tunisia: Let your voices be heard!

The women of Tunisia have a decisive role to play in shaping Tunisia's future. Fatma Ben Saïdane reminds women of the power of their vote and the importance of civic engagement.
"You have my permission [to run my articles]. Always delighted with the news service."

- John Esposito, University Professor and founding Director of the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim - Christian Understanding at Georgetown University

It takes 200+ hours a week to produce CGNews. We rely on readers like you to make it happen. If you find our stories informative or inspiring, help us share these underreported perspectives with audiences around the world.



Or, support us with a one-time donation.

~Looking Back~ US, Middle East myths on gender equality
Muslim women, the masters of ceremony in Canada
Rickshaws are paving the way for peace in Pakistan
Youth are teaching dialogue skills in Cairo
# of hours per week to create one edition
# of editors in 6 countries around the world
# of subscribers
Average # of reprints per article
# of media outlets that have reprinted our articles
# of republished articles since inception
# of languages CG articles are distributed in
# of writers since inception


Other articles in this edition

~Looking Back~ US, Middle East myths on gender equality by Helen Rizzo
Muslim women, the masters of ceremony in Canada by Daood Hamdani
Rickshaws are paving the way for peace in Pakistan by Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi and Heena Bukhari
Youth are teaching dialogue skills in Cairo by Vanessa Bassil