'Family of Israel'

A casual visit to many of the country's malls last Wednesday couldn't fail to generate abundant pride.

blood test 88 (photo credit: )
blood test 88
(photo credit: )
Israel is a state all too battered by outright prejudice, yet a casual visit to many of the country's malls last Wednesday couldn't fail to generate abundant pride. It was the day Ezer Mizion volunteers set up blood testing stations at 85 shopping centers, campuses and assorted institutions throughout the country to help find matching bone marrow donors for six-year-old Amit Kadosh and three-year-old Dan Nevo, both leukemia patients. The response overwhelmed even the most optimistic drive-organizers. Twice as many samples as expected were collected - over 60,000 within a span of 10 hours. There would have been significantly more but numerous potential donors had to be turned away - there just weren't enough testing kits on hand to cope with the record turnout. Though the sampling began at 10 a.m., long queues started forming in some locales two hours earlier. Adults aged 18-50 gave up valuable time on an ordinary workday and waited their turn without a grumble to fill out long forms and have blood taken from their veins. Many also donated the NIS 180 that processing each blood sample costs. Total strangers seemed personally affected by Amit's and Dan's plight. This isn't the first time such drives have been conducted. The Zichron Menachem organization has also sponsored donor searches (using techniques that don't necessitate blood tests). Last week's effort, however, was on an unprecedented scale and the response was equally unparalleled. "Israel isn't merely a nation. It's one large family, united on all fronts. We saw this during the war in the South and we see this solidarity in the war for our children's lives. I am so proud to be one of the Family of Israel," reacted Yuval Kadosh, Amit's father. He speaks for us all. The hope now is that compatible tissue-types will be found among the collected samples. The evaluation could take as long as six weeks, yet if the previous drive is anything to go by, there's reason for hope. Last November Ezer Mizion launched a similar campaign for 13-year-old Omri Attiya and, from among the 32,000 who then turned out to offer blood samples, a suitable donor was indeed discovered. Omri had since undergone a bone marrow transplant at the Schneider Children's Hospital. DONATING bone marrow is one of the most feasible, uncomplicated and non-risky procedures to help out patients for whom the gift of life from unrelated individuals could be their sole chance for survival. Although some patients with leukemia or other cancers have a genetically matched family member who can donate, about 70 percent do not. These patients' lives depend on finding a donor, often at least partially of their own ethnic extraction. But even those whose tissue-type won't be compatible with Amit's and Dan's remain potential donors. Having been properly screened and typed, their data will be included in the Ezer Mizion bone marrow registry, where it could help others in the future. There are already hundreds of thousands of potential donors on this, the world's single largest Jewish bone marrow donor registry. HEARTWARMING AS the unstinted grassroots response is, the only fly in this otherwise most excellent of ointments is the need to depend on the generosity of philanthropic nonprofit organizations like Ezer Mizion. The likelihood of finding a donor in existing Israeli registries is calculated at 1 in 30,000. Significantly enlarging these registries is too heavy a financial burden for not-for-profit and voluntary organizations to shoulder. The best solution would be the establishment of a large central public-run registry instead of the existing three (Ezer Mizion, Hadassah Ein-Kerem and, the smallest, at Sheba Hospital). Thus far, however, the Treasury has nixed all initiatives to get the government to foot the bill for such an undertaking. Our only solace is that officialdom's vacuum is filled by an outpouring of popular generosity, compassion and cohesion. It's doubtful that the great crowds of potential donors who mobbed Ezer Mizion's testing teams could be equaled anywhere else on earth. Beautiful Israel shined through.