(photo credit: Associated Press)
Nobel Prize in Medicine winner Dr. Robert Edwards’s antipathy for the Jews of Palestine dissolved into great admiration for the Jewish state in 1989, thanks to a two-hour car tour with Kitty Schenker, the wife of Hadassah-University Medical Center obstetrician and gynecologist Prof. Joseph Schenker, who had invited him to a Jerusalem conference on in-vitro fertilization.
Edwards’s anger against the Jews, The Jerusalem Post learned on Monday, was kindled when he was a young British Army soldier in Mandatory Palestine in 1947. Two British sergeants were killed by the underground Jewish organization Etzel (Irgun Tzvai Leumi) in retaliation against the British authorities, who had implemented death sentences against Irgun members who had been charged with terrorism.
IVF inventor Robert Edwards wins Nobel Prize
State orders Maguire to leave immediately, denies appeal
Editorial: The disingenuous Nobel laureate
The sergeants’ boobytrapped bodies were hung in an eucalyptus grove near Netanya, prompting British troops and policemen to go on a rampage in Tel Aviv, where five Jews were killed.
The “Sergeants Affair,” as it became known, also triggered anti-Semitic rioting in some British cities.
Edwards, who was a member of the same platoon as the dead sergeants, Clifford Martin and Mervyn Paice, was so angry at their deaths that he strongly opposed the State of Israel.
Joseph Schenker, who was for years head of the Hadassah’s
obstetrics/gynecology department, delivered the first Israeli test-tube
baby in Jerusalem in 1981 – three years after the birth of the world’s
first, Louise Brown. This embryo was produced in England by invitro
fertilization (IVF) by Edwards and his colleague Dr. Patrick Steptoe.
was a boy, and I pledged to his mother that I would never divulge her
name, because she thought her son would be embarrassed by how he was
conceived,” Schenker recalled.
Schenker, who is today president of the International Academy of Human Reproduction, told the Post
on Monday that he met “Bob,” now 85, at conferences abroad, and even
nominated him for the Nobel Prize for Medicine 15 years ago.
he did not receive it before, because the Nobel academy members were
angry at him and Steptoe for keeping the IVF process secret until they
decided later to release the information.”
Steptoe, who died in
1988, could not receive the award posthumously, as only living persons
can be Nobel laureates, Schenker explained.
When the IVF
conference was scheduled at the then-Hilton Hotel in Jerusalem (now the
Crowne Plaza) in 1989, Schenker invited Edwards, who initially refused
to come, claiming Israelis “persecuted” Arabs. But when international
pressure built up, he “arrived on the second day.” Edwards refused to
address the conference and kept to himself at the hotel.
Schenker’s wife, Kitty, volunteered to take Edwards on a tour in her
car. She took him to the Old City, Abu Ghosh and elsewhere, where he saw
how the Arabs lived well and were prospering.
“From then on, he had changed views of Israel,” Schenker recalled.
Edwards even invited Schenker to serve on the board of a medical journal he edited.
Schenker has just published a 600-page, Hebrew-language volume called Promoting Health of Women
, in which he gives much credit to Edwards and Steptoe.
produced a revolution,” he said on Monday. “Four to five million
children were born thanks to their IVF technique, and today, two percent
of all Israeli births are produced by IVF. It has been a blessing."
there are any more complications in IVF babies,” the Jerusalem
gynecologist said, “it is among those deliveries that are multiple
births, which means that they are usually born prematurely. But there is
no proof that singleton IVF babies have any more difficulties than
those conceived naturally.”
He added that Israel – with its very
positive view of fertility – has two dozen IVF clinics and one of the
highest rates of IVF pregnancies in the world.