I’ve been to the Middle East three times in the past year, if you count Arab North Africa as a cultural extention of the Middle East. (I do.) Whenever I say I’m heading out, almost everyone I know is startled at what they apparently think is my recklessness, as if the region is a seething cauldron of hatred and violence that never stops. It isn’t. It looks that way from where we sit because of the “If it bleeds, it leads” newsroom mentality. “Arab Shopkeeper was Kind to Stranger Today” is not a headline you will ever read. Of course it’s possible that I’ll be screamed at or shot at in the Middle East at some point, but it hasn’t happened yet. I don’t expect it will.
I’m not at all surprised by what is described in the following article in the Chicago Sun-Times. But it is an unusual and pleasant departure from the usual roundup of explosions and bloodcurdling fanatical bombast.
Dr. Maher Deeb remembers the first time he saw Skokie native Shayna Gould: It was in his operating room 3-1/2 years ago in Israel. And Gould was dead.
A Palestinian gunman had sprayed a crowded Jerusalem bus stop with bullets, and one found its way into Gould’s lung. By the time the raven-haired 19-year-old made it to Deeb’s hospital, she was deemed dead on arrival, with no pulse and barely any blood circulating in her bullet-torn body.
A team made up largely of Israeli-Arab doctors and nurses raced to bring the Jewish teen back to life. They infused her with blood, while Deeb opened her chest and pumped her heart with his hands.
“The anesthesiologist said, ‘Just keep working on her. She’s a beautiful girl, and you’re going to attend her wedding one day,’ ” recalled Deeb, chief of thoracic surgery at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.
Deeb kept working, and Gould was able to thank him in Chicago on Thursday, when they reunited for the first time since Gould left Israel after the 2002 attack.
When Gould walked into the Chicago hotel room and flashed him a smile flanked by deep dimples, Deeb beamed like a proud father.
“Just look at her,” Deeb said quietly, as the two reached out to hug…
Deeb and Gould acknowledged that while tensions can run high among Arabs and Jews in Israel, political differences are left at the door of Shaare Zedek hospital.
“In my operating room, there are just two types of people,” Deeb said. “Those who save people’s lives and those who need saving.
“We have Jewish doctors treating Arab patients all the time,” he added. “We might have different political views, but most of us — Jews, Arabs — we have the same dream: a peaceful settlement.”
UPDATE: Marc C adds in the comments:
There’s a lot of examples of Jewish/Arab and even Jewish/Palestinian cooperation that simply never get reported. There’s another hospital here called Schneider Children’s Hospital that is particularly active in reaching out to Palestinians and providing treatment not available in the occupied territories. Recently, some church group came to Israel on a fact-finding mission, all set to do a hatchet job on Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. After visiting Schneider’s, the head of the group said: “Well, you’ve succeeded in thoroughly confusing us.” More people should experience the same confusion.