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P. David Hornik

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September 15, 2013 - 11:00 am

PJ-Syrians1

It’s reported that since Syria’s civil war erupted two and a half years ago, over 120 Syrians have come to Israeli hospitals for medical treatment. They appear to come mainly to Ziv Hospital in Safed, in the upper Galilee, and to the Western Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya, also in upper Galilee on the Mediterranean coast.

The Syrians are described as “very badly hurt, with gunshot wounds and blast injuries, and receiving life-saving treatment.” They somehow make it to the Israeli border, from where the Israeli army transports them to the hospitals. Although predominantly civilians, often women and children, one report cites a Syrian patient who appears to be a “rebel fighter”—meaning he could well belong to a jihadi group that wants Israel destroyed.

Syria as a whole is decidedly hostile to Israel, having been in a state of war with it since Israel was established in 1948. If the situation was reversed—if Israelis were savagely killing each other en masse, which has never happened and never will—there is scant chance Syrian hospitals would accept wounded Israelis, even less that Syrian soldiers would bring them there for treatment.

Nevertheless, Dr. Calin Shapira, deputy head of Ziv Hospital, told Agence France-Presse that no wounded Syrians who come to Ziv are turned away:

It doesn’t matter where they’re from…. It’s important to give medical aid regardless—this is a principle of the medical profession.

Syrian wounded who come to Israel are in desperate need. A Syrian woman told French NGO Médecins Sans Frontières that in her country “there are no medicines, nowhere to go, no hospitals. Medicine has become a rare commodity.” Fifty-seven percent of Syria’s hospitals have been damaged in the fighting—some most likely deliberately targeted by one side or the other—and 36 percent have stopped functioning.PJ-Syrians2

Once they find themselves in Israel, the Syrians not only have to cope with their medical conditions—but with their terror over being where they are.

Masad Barhoum, clinical director at Western Galilee Medical Center, told NBC News:

Most of them arrive unconscious…. When they wake up and find that they are in Israel they are anxious and afraid.  We don’t ask them any questions, we just do what we can to make them feel comfortable.

Dr. Zonis Zeev, also at the Western Galilee center, told Britain’s The Independent:

For the Syrians, we are monsters. On this side of the border, there are monster-Jews. You probably saw some of the propaganda—of Jews cutting pieces of Arabs and eating them, all the blood and stuff. So they grew up on this feeling and their anxiety is even greater, especially if they arrive alone. It’s really heartbreaking to see.

And as he also told AP:

Probably at some time they were told about the “animals” on the other side of the border, us, like the Zionists or the Jews…. So they are terrified, and we have to treat the anxiety not less than treating the physical part. Sometimes it is much harder.

For a taste of what Syrians and other Arabs have drummed into their heads about Israel all the time, you can see cartoon samples here and here.PJ-Syrians3

When they return to Syria, will these Syrians have a more realistic view of Israel? One would like to think so. But even if they do, they’ll be taking their life in their hands if they say so—or disclose that they were in an Israeli hospital at all.

Agence France-Press reports on one Fatima, a Syrian woman who “ended up in Ziv hospital with her daughter after a blast shattered their legs in their hometown of Daraa….” She was “full of praise for the medical staff.” And yet,

mindful that Syria and Israel are technically still at war following their 1967 and 1973 conflicts, she was reluctant to be identified, asking that pseudonyms be used both for herself and for her daughter.

“Please do not show our faces,” she asked AFP photographers.

AP reports similarly on a “nervous, silent father” who “hovers over his injured daughter”:

He is silent because he cannot speak Hebrew, nervous because his presence in Israel, Syria’s long-time enemy, could place his family in danger if his trip is discovered.

…While he was grateful for high-quality medical care, he was visibly afraid of the potential consequences of his trip, speaking in one-word answers and keeping his eyes lowered. He checked footage filmed by an AP Television News crew to make sure his daughter’s face was obscured.

…Generations of Syrians have grown up under propaganda vilifying the Jewish state.

All of this means that the father’s presence in Israel could mean trouble for his family back home from any number of groups.

Ditto from the report in The Independent:

The Syrian patients’ names, photographs and home towns cannot be revealed at the risk of attacks on them or their families.PJ-Syrians4

I’ve touched a few times in this series on the theme of Israel as a light of democratic decency and progress that, nonetheless, has a leper-like status in the Arab and much of the Muslim world, to a large degree in Europe, and elsewhere. The theme is nowhere more sadly evident than in the fears of these Syrians—first, on finding themselves in dreaded Israel; then, on realizing that this “transgression” could get discovered back home.

The Israeli hospitals, of course, keep accepting these patients and treating them regardless. One has to be who one is.

P. David Hornik is a freelance writer and translator living in Beersheva and author of the book Choosing Life in Israel.

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
As a matter of principle, injured Syrians should be treated in Iranian hospitals
1) Iran is funding the conflict, so they are responsible for the injuries
2) Roger Cohen of the New York Times says that Iran is one of the most civilized countries in the world, so they would obviously get superior medical care in Iran
3) Since Iran has the revenue from oil to support Hezbollah, they can better afford free but expensive medical care
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
FWIW, I can personally attest to David's and similar reports, both being a Safed resident living about a km from the hospital (we're a small mountaintop town, actually, and the helos fly over our home en route to the landing pad downhill from us), and as a long-term regional journalist.

There are simply scores of such stories, and I have covered several of them first-hand for the international media, as well as personally lived them:

Both staff and patients at the Jerusalem hospital (Misgav Ladach) where my three children were born was made up of Israelis, Jews and Arabs (Palestinian Jerusalem ID card-holders, to the best of my knowledge).

Another family member was also successfully treated a few years ago by a similar staff makeup at the city's Hadassah Hospital, in their state-of-the-art pediatric cancer ward and outpatient clinic. Many of the patients I and family interacted with at the clinic during her course of treatment were Palestinians from Jerusalem, Ramallah and area villages.

I blogged about Barzalai Hospital near Gaza back in '08 treating twin Palestinian preemies - as the structure itself underwent rocket attacks emanating from Gaza, here: http://betbender.blogspot.co.il/2008/03/israeli-hospital-under-palestinian.html

Also worth viewing is a video I produced about the "Save a Child's Heart" org operating out of Schneider Children's Hospital in Holon, near Tel Aviv, featuring youth and toddlers from across the mideast, as well as Gaza and PA area: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Y_WkG0qATY
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
This is, I'm proud to say, nothing new. When I served in the IDF in the 1980s, it was not unheard of for a terrorist attack to result in dozens of wounded people, including the terrorist perpetrator... and for all the wounded to be rushed to the same hospital, to be treated by the same doctors. Occasionally the terrorist would be in the same recovery room as his would-be victims.

The principle was clear, and rock-solid -- once the danger from the attack was over, the terrorist was another wounded person, in need of quality medical treatment... and he got it. Depending on circumstances, he might be in the hospital under heavy military guard, but he'd be there, with doctors scrupulously providing the same high quality of medical care that the victims got.

In the 1970s, similarly, the families of many of the leaders of prominent Arab countries had visited Israel, in secret, for medical treatment. They came to Israel because that's where the best medical care was. And then they left, and went back to their countries where Israel is vilified every day, while their Israeli doctors hoped that, someday, some of them might remember being treated kindly by their enemies... and act accordingly.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (20)
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41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
good. keep them imagining "monster jews". i like it. wish europeans had that same ignorant, vicious, medieval, stupid hallucination. oh. wait.
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
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42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
Another article more suitible for the JWR complete with America bashers from Israel in the commentar iSmall wonder leftist websites refer to PJ Media as "Predominately Jewish Media. Pity.
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
Not a single 'American-bashing' post on this entire thread. Not one. You are a small-minded fool.
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
Every time I see an adult white liberal experience a moment of cognitive dissonance they invariable snap back to their old reflexive liberalism. Too many liberal enforcers looking to shame them. To little intellectual curiosity. To difficult to leave behind friends and family. Negative implications professionally. 95% of electronic media would be hostile to them. White liberals in the US do not suffer 5% of the brainwashing of a Islamic Arab living in Syria. They will go back to Syria and live with the cognitive dissonance because they wish to survive.
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
I seem to remember awhile back an Arab woman was treated at an Israeli hospital that saved her life. She came back later to the hospital with a bomb strapped to her. She was trying to blow up the very hospital that had saved her life.

How can you deal with people like this? I would hope that many of those treated decide to stay in Israel and find a good life there or return and spread the word about the good treatment they received. Maybe enough will listen to them that they may end this foolishness.
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
As a matter of principle, injured Syrians should be treated in Iranian hospitals
1) Iran is funding the conflict, so they are responsible for the injuries
2) Roger Cohen of the New York Times says that Iran is one of the most civilized countries in the world, so they would obviously get superior medical care in Iran
3) Since Iran has the revenue from oil to support Hezbollah, they can better afford free but expensive medical care
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
Israel, a country so dependent on the United States for its existence that it's leaders have no choice but to release hundreds of terrorists from prison when America commands it, is in no position to exercise any sort of "generosity" towards others. The same act that would signify great generosity if done by a knight or a king would be reduced to a comical gesture when repeated by a despised beggar.
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
We are well-meaning losers, but losers nonetheless. There may be good reasons to treat enemy civilians, that is, civilians fleeing from Syria specifically to receive life-saving medical care in Israel, but there is no moral reason under either Jewish or general Western systems that justifies placing enemy combatants - and those who specifically target civilians - on a level with our soldiers. That is, frankly, a travesty and an example of Jews trying to be more Christian than the Christians - and succeeding, to no purpose.
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
I wish Americans had a better sense of what Israel is all about. Of course most Americans don't know much about any foreign countries--but Israel especially seems to be terra incognita.
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
Maybe we should follow their health care system? If they can afford to treat Syrians, while in the US we cannot afford to treat our own citizens (and with Obamacare, it's going to be much, much worse)
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
Two reasons I think the Israeli healthcare model would never work in America:

1) Israel has more doctors per capita than any other country. This, despite the fact that doctors in Israel are not well paid. I can only put this down to the Jewish cultural pressure that all kids grow up to be doctors. You know the joke about the Jewish mother who introduces her 3-year-old as "my son the doctor"...

2) While medical practice and procedure in Israel is generally good, hospital conditions are very spartan and crowded by American standards. It's not that they're dirty, they're just no-frills and private rooms are unheard of. People in Israel, even affluent ones, seem to accept this as normal. In America, even homeless people would sue the hospital, and any American jury would be horrified and probably award them damages. Hospitals would go bankrupt even trying to settle out of court. But they would go bankrupt trying to provide American-like conditions, too.
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
I don't like socialized medicine of any form, but the Israeli system I live under is better than the Canadian/British model Obama is trying to foist on the US. The reason it sort of works, I think, is that you can go outside the system, and private medicine is relatively inexpensive.
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
@DiscoJer: IF you're asking honestly, while it's a tiered system, with competing HMOs, I'm not sure it w/could scale up to US levels (itself a worthwhile discussion , also re US - vs - Israeli airport security policies and techniques, etc). As well, Israel can't "afford" to treat them - and we also have "heath care basket" issues (but the public is not complaining that we are rendering world-class aid to what are, apparently, wounded non-combatants from a hostile neighbor - although one man came in earlier in the summer with a pinned grenade in his pocket).
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
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