Organ donors’ families, along with recipients and their families, gathered at
the official residence of President Shimon Peres on Wednesday, under the
auspices of ADI, the National Transplant Center.
The Health Ministry
established the center in 1994 as an official and independent body to manage
Israel’s organ donation and transplant system.
The event was also meant
to show that there is no discrimination in donating organs.
In a video
shown at the event, a recipient says after a transplant, “I never thought I
would live to see the day when I could raise my arms again. I was so weak, I
couldn’t do a thing.”
The mother of a young boy, making an obvious effort
at self-control, says to doctors: “Take whatever you can from him, so more of
him will remain alive on earth.”
A Jewish family that received the gift
of life from an Arab family has visited with that family several times. There is
a bond between them that transcends any differences they might
Although they have met before, there was a heart-warming meeting on
stage between members of the Borin family, who contributed the organs of their
five-and-a-half year old daughter that helped to save the life of teenager Maya
Harel, who underwent a liver transplant.
Now fully recovered, and a
volunteer in the IDF, Harel, 18, and wearing her army uniform, told of how at
age 13, she suffered from severe stomach cramps that her family doctor diagnosed
as a virus.
She was taken to hospital and placed in emergency care where
she underwent every possible test before it was determined that she had a
severely diseased liver. None of the treatment that she received in the course
of a year did her much good, and the only solution that she could anticipate was
The trouble was that Israelis do not have a very good
record for donating organs. Part of this stems from an old Jewish belief that a
person who died should be buried with his or her body intact.
Jewish law, as in Christian and Muslim law, the saving of life is given priority
above all else. It has taken a long time to convince the haredi community to
donate organs, although they have no problem in accepting them.
leading rabbis have come out in favor of organ donations and transplants, ADI is
hopeful that more people will get the message and sign up for an ADI card, which
obviates the need to ask immediate relatives to agree to donate organs if a card
Harel was in Switzerland with her parents and siblings when
the news that a liver was available finally came. Her mother burst into tears of
relief and it was left to Harel to pack the suitcase that they would take with
them on the flight back to Israel. The 10-hour operation was successful, but she
was kept sedated and in intensive care for two days.
Later she went back
to school and led a perfectly normal life, and considered it a privilege when
she was accepted into the IDF.
Looking out at a sea of donor families on
Wednesday, she said: “In the depths of your own personal anguish, you seized the
opportunity to save the lives of others.”
Samach Ouda, one of 11
siblings, lost one sister many years ago and a second sister in a traffic
accident three years ago.
“I empathize with you in your own tragedies,”
she told other grieving families. Her sister did not die on the
Physicians made every effort to save her when she was brought to
the hospital, but she was pronounced brain dead after spending three days in the
trauma unit. When the family was asked to donate her organs, the only hesitation
was over whether they were permitted to do so from a religious
Ouda’s father and brothers went to consult the local mufti,
who told them that there is nothing in Islamic law to preclude them from doing
so. There is nothing more important than saving life, he said.
Bayer, chairman of the steering committee at the National Transplant Center,
said that over the past year, 155 lives had been saved in Israel as a result of
transplants and many more people were able to function better and breathe better
after receiving transplants of kidneys, lungs and other organs.
revealed that he signed an ADI card two years ago.
Although 70 is the
maximum cut-off age for receiving organs, there are instances when the cut-off
age is younger depending on the nature of the transplant.
There may not
need to be a cut-off age for donating organs if the organs are healthy. The
president will celebrate his 90th birthday next August.
Peres said he
saluted all the families engaged in organ transplants – both donors and
recipients. It was very moving, he said, to see this kind of altruism in which
there was no discrimination between old and young, between men and women or
between Arabs and Jews. This was a reminder, he said, that all people are born
equal and in the image of God.
Bereavement and illness are not
religiously or racially selective, he said, as he praised those who in their
hour of greatest distress displayed the greatest nobility of
“Life is a choice which should never be rejected,” he
Referring to the Ouda family, Peres said, “The angel of death
visited you, twice, and you chose to become the angels of life. There is nothing
more rewarding than being able to give a dying individual the ability to return
to life and to become a productive citizen.”
ADI is currently conducting
a nationwide donor campaign.
Anyone who signs an ADI card will be
eligible for the short list of recipients should he or she suddenly be in need
of an organ transplant.
The signature on the card is only a small
gesture, the president said, “but the potential has far-reaching
While the event was intended to underline the importance
of giving life, Peres did not overlook the pain that death causes to
“Every tombstone in every cemetery is a symbol of someone’s
grief,” he said.