Jerusalem doctors treat terrorists and victims alike, identities unknown

Israeli, Palestinian doctors leave politics behind in Jerusalem hospital.

By REUTERS
November 3, 2015 14:32
3 minute read.

Hadassah hospital: An oasis of equality

Hadassah hospital: An oasis of equality

Jewish and Muslim doctors leave politics behind before entering Jerusalem's Hadassah University Mount Scopus Hospital as they treat both victims and attackers of a month-long wave of violence that is showing no signs of abating.

Jews and Arabs alike roam the corridors of the Jerusalem medical center, located adjacent to Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem where Israel has recently erected roadblocks in an effort to stop a wave of Palestinian knife attacks.

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When violence and fear mounts outside the hospital doors, the sight of Jews wearing yamakas on their heads and Hijab-wearing Muslim women sitting side by side at the hospital's waiting rooms indicates that coexistence is still possible.

Professor Ahmed Eid, head of the hospital's surgery department, says his religion does not interfere with his treatment of patients.

As an example, Professor Eid said in a recent stabbing attack in the nearby settlement of Pisgat Zeev, a 13-year old Palestinian boy who was shot and wounded after stabbing a 13-year old Jewish boy, were both rushed to hospital.

Eid and his team of doctors treated both teenagers. Both have been discharged from the hospital; the Palestinian attacker was sent to prison and the Jewish boy sent home.

"I am an Israeli Arab, this is my country, I feel the same as Yochi (Doctor Schiffman) feels. It's my country and I'm doing my job, I try to do my best. This is the way I look at that. So, I don't wake up in the morning and start thinking 'I'm an Arab not a Jew' and such things, I am focused on patient treatment, that's all," said Eid, an Israeli-Arab from a village in northern Israel.



Israeli-Arabs comprise approximately 40 percent of the medical team at Hadassah hospital, according to Eid.

"We don't really think about who we are treating. We are focused on saving lives of patients. Preventing death, that's all," he added.

At least 67 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli gunfire since Oct. 1. Forty of those were assailants armed mainly with knives, while others were shot during anti-Israel protests, Israeli authorities have said. Many were teenagers.

Eleven Israelis have been killed in stabbings and shootings by Palestinians.

The medical center, overlooking the neighborliness of Issawiya in East Jerusalem, is a rare bubble of coexistence where attackers and victims alike are treated with no distinction.

"We don't know who the victims are, or the attackers. We get the casualties or the injured people, and they come to the emergency room. We don't discriminate who is who," said Doctor Jochanan Schiffman, head of anesthesiology and critical care at the hospital.

"We didn't know in advance who is who, we treated them equally and that's what we do".

The recent wave of violence has been partly triggered by Palestinians' anger over what they see as increased Jewish encroachment on Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque compound, which is also revered by Jews as the site of two destroyed Jewish temples.

There is also deep-seated frustration with the failure of years of peace efforts to achieve Palestinian statehood and end Israeli settlement-building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Israel's security cabinet had authorized measures in East Jerusalem, including setting up roadblocks in Palestinian neighborhoods, a move Palestinian officials condemned as collective punishment.

One resident of Issawiyeh, a Palestinian neighborhood where Israeli security forces clamped down following a wave of attacks, is Doctor Alaiyan Bilal, a surgeon at Hadassah.

"Sometimes it's difficult to me to come to here because of the... all the situation, all the difficult situation," said Bilal.

"Sometimes I come to the guard and to the policeman and tell him that I'm a surgeon here, I have to go treat patients, it is urgent for me. In general it helps but sometimes it can take a lot of time," he added.

The recent unrest and tension remain outside the hospital corridors and the medical center's director Doctor Osnat Lev Zion Korah says the policy shows coexistence is the way to peace.

"What is very basic in the way we treat is that we don't differ between any patient. No matter where he comes from, what he did and what the reason that he is here for. He is treated according to his medical condition. And we are very proud to say that we here at Hadassah, show that coexistence works and we truly believe that medicine is a bridge to peace."



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