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Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Two kids strike up a friendship in an Israeli hospital

In the late '90's, Mrs. Carl and I had occasion to spend an inordinate amount of time hanging around several Israeli hospitals. What you see there is something that is not seen almost anyplace else in the world. You see, Israeli hospitals don't just treat Israelis. They treat 'Palestinians' and Jordanians and Egyptians and Iraqis. They also treat Israelis. There is nothing in this country that levels the playing field more than the pediatric wards of an Israeli hospital.

Based on my experience, I'm not too surprised at this story, although the New York Times apparently is. The kid in the picture is Orel Elizarov, age 8, of Be'er Sheva. And you're about to learn about him and his friend Marya. Marya is from Gaza.
Friendship often starts with proximity, but Orel and Marya, both 8, have been thrust together in a way few elsewhere have. Their playground is a hospital corridor. He is an Israeli Jew severely wounded by a Hamas rocket. She is a Palestinian Muslim from Gaza paralyzed by an Israeli missile. Someone forgot to tell them that they are enemies.

“He’s a naughty boy,” Marya likes to say of Orel with an appreciative smile when he gets a little wild.

When Orel arrived here a year ago, he could not hear, see, talk or walk. Now he does them all haltingly. Half his brain is gone. Doctors were deeply pessimistic about his survival. Today they are amazed at his progress although unclear how much more can be made.

Marya’s spinal cord was broken at the neck and she can move only her head. Smart, sunny and strong-willed, she moves her wheelchair by pushing a button with her chin. Nothing escapes her gaze. She knows that Orel is starting to prefer boys as playmates and she makes room. But their bond remains strong.

In a way, a friendship between two wounded children from opposing backgrounds is not that surprising. Neither understands the prolonged fight over land and identity that so divides people here. They are kids. They play.

But for those who have spent time in their presence at Alyn Hospital in Jerusalem, it is almost more powerful to observe their parents, who do understand. They have developed a kinship that defies national struggle.
Read the whole thing. We Jews are a strange people. It has happened many times that suicide bombers were treated in the same hospitals as their victims. It's something most people don't get about this country. When someone needs help everyone pitches in.


At 5:09 AM, Blogger Joe said...

My mother once told me a story from when she worked as a nurse in a maternity ward in Jerusalem. She overheard one of the nurses that was feeding an Arab baby with bottled milk, saying "drink up, become strong, so one day you can also throw rocks at me from the side of the road."

At 8:19 PM, Blogger Mervyn Doobov said...

I have often thought that we should take visiting big knobs to Hadasssah hospital at Ein Kerem as well as, or instead of Yad vaShem (it's a neighbouring location). There they could see the truth of Israel as an "apartheid" state.


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