Soroka catches it breath as number of wounded decreases

Cautious sense of calm prevails at Beersheba's main hospital.

wounded soldier soroka 248 88 ap (photo credit: AP)
wounded soldier soroka 248 88 ap
(photo credit: AP)
A cautious sense of calm prevailed at Beersheba's Soroka University Medical Center on Sunday, as the day passed without the rush of helicopters and ambulances bringing wounded soldiers in from the Gaza battlefield. Only two lightly wounded soldiers had been admitted by the evening, and eight others were still being treated for injuries sustained since the ground operation began on January 3. While the hospital's hallways and corridors were relatively quiet - a stark difference from last week's large crowds and near chaos. A few families and friends of the wounded continued to hold vigil near the surgical ward, watching TV and eating from the array of food that had been delivered by well-wishers. "We're waiting for Yossi [Chai Tzion]," a pair of Golani soldiers said as they sat in the waiting room, watching the news. "He's been getting better, thank God, and tomorrow he's supposed to move to [Sheba Medical Center at] Tel Hashomer." Chai Tzion was wounded in the mortar attack at Nahal Oz on December 29 that claimed the life of Chief Warrant Officer Lotfi Nasr a-Din. The two Golanchiks said they had been on leave since Thursday and had spent Shabbat at the hospital waiting for news of their friend. "We're just hoping and praying that he'll be okay," one of them said. "When he got here, he was in critical condition. But he's been through a number of operations and the doctors are doing a great job. We just want to see him healthy again." A few days ago, they were inside Gaza. "It's hectic in there," the second soldier said. "We came under a lot of Kalashnikov fire, but we gave a lot back as well. Our job was to go in and take various houses, and then set up lookouts and positions to launch smaller operations from. It wasn't so crazy, we would come back across the border a lot - in and out. But it's not easy fighting in there, they're still putting up a fight." Others, whose vigils had finally ended, expressed joy as their loved ones were released from the hospital on Sunday. Yoav Sa'ad, whose son was shot in the arm by a sniper in Gaza, told The Jerusalem Post he felt as if he had received a gift from God. "With all the fighting going on in there, the mortars and the bombs, he got shot in the arm," Sa'ad said. "And now that he's been released from the hospital, we feel as though we've been given a gift. It feels like the day he had his bar mitzva, and we're just thankful to have him home and feeling better." Sa'ad, who lives in Moshav Yated, near the Kerem Shalom crossing to the southern Gaza Strip, said he constantly hears the air strikes and the mortar fire coming from Gaza, and that while he was worried about his son, he knew the importance of his son's mission. "He said it was tough fighting in there," Sa'ad said. "He told me there were a lot of explosives and a lot of gunfire, but that Hamas wasn't able to get very close to our soldiers. He said they were fighting dirty." Sa'ad said his family plans to travel to Jerusalem on Thursday, to pray at the Western Wall for his son and for the rest of the soldiers who are fighting or have been wounded in Gaza. "We're not a religious family, he said. "We're traditional, but we feel like part of the chain that is the Nation of Israel, and we're going to Jerusalem to offer our thanks." And while the quiet continued to hold at Soroka by nightfall on Sunday, the hospital remained on heightened alert. The crowds and the news crews were gone, but a line of gurneys, ready to take the wounded inside, waited next to the helicopter landing pad.