Peres with cancer patients 311.
(photo credit: Mark Neiman/GPO)
Some 30 Jewish and Arab youngsters, whose common denominator, other than the fact that they live in Israel is that they are all cancer patients, met with President Shimon Peres at Beit Hanassi on Sunday within the framework of the Gila Almagor Make a Wish Foundation.
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The foundation, which will celebrate its 35th anniversary on Tu Bishvat (January 20), started as a one-woman initiative with leading actress Gila Almagor at the helm. Over the years, she has been joined by around 20 dedicated and compassionate volunteers who help with youngsters and their families in a myriad of ways in addition to taking them on trips abroad and tours around Israel.
In addition to Beit Hanassi, the itinerary on Sunday included a visit to the Western Wall and the Temple Mount, lunch at the King David Hotel and an afternoon at the Biblical Zoo.
The visit to Beit Hanassi was the result of a wish expressed by several of the youngsters to be able to meet the president face to face and to shake his hand.
And indeed, when Peres entered the hall that wish was quickly realized. He went around shaking hands, asking boys and girls their names and how they felt.
Almagor knows each of the children and their families intimately, and introduced some of them to Peres, along with volunteers and medical staff, especially those involved with bone marrow transplants. The youngsters spoke affectionately of the care they receive from her and through her.
Peres told the youngsters that no matter what, they should never give up hope.
It was once thought that there was only one kind of cancer and that it was incurable, he said. It has since been discovered that there are many kinds of cancer, some of which can be cured or at least arrested.
He was confident that eventually a cure will be found for every kind of cancer.
While doctors are to a large extent responsible for cures, said Peres they need good partners – namely their patients, and it is up to the patients to have positive attitudes and to fight like lions, because attitude is often part of the healing process.
“As difficult as things are for you now, in the final analysis, you will come out stronger,” the president said.
Snir, a teenager, who has been receiving treatment at Petah Tikva’s Schneider Children’s Medical Center for 10 years, noted that cancer has no ethnic or religious boundaries. “We all, Jews and Arabs, want to wake to a healthy tomorrow,” he said.
Nabil, a shy Arab girl, thanked Peres for demonstrating affection towards all the children. She wondered aloud why it was that Jews and Arabs got along so well when they were stricken with various forms of the same illness, but not when they were healthy.
Peres said he was extremely moved by the thought.
Yehiel, who has battled cancer for 15 and a half of his 16 years, but looks like a prize fighter, also rose to thank Peres for his hospitality.
Peres expressed surprise at his solid appearance, and Almagor, embracing
the boy, said “He’s a real fighter. He’s suffered a lot, but he just
Bar, who was scheduled to present a painting to Peres, was hospitalized
that morning and could not come. He had been very disappointed, said
Almagor, who brought the painting anyway.
Peres called Bar at the hospital, wished him well, told him how much he
liked the painting and expressed the opinion that Bar was a true artist.