After a short visit and numerous emails, pediatric emergency physician Sigmund J. Kharasch finally scored the invite he was waiting for: a chance to work for a month in the Hadassah-Mount Scopus Hospital in Jerusalem. He wasn’t prepared for what he saw when he arrived:
I landed in Israel on a Monday morning and began work in the emergency department on Wednesday. I put on my freshly pressed white coat with stethoscope and other paraphernalia and walked into the department, still tired and foggy from jet lag. I blinked a few times as the scene in front of me came into focus. The emergency department was filled with patients, and most of them were Arabs! I was quickly introduced to the nurse manager, Ashraf, a Druze Arab from northern Israel, and Muhammad, a nurse from the West Bank, who was working at Hadassah as an Arabic translator. I met the pediatric residents working that morning with me: Amjad, an Israeli Arab from Nazareth, and Ibrahim, a Palestinian from East Jerusalem, who recently finished medical school in Egypt. Having a terrible sense of direction, I thought for a moment I was in the wrong place and hospital.
The view from a window of the hospital reveals people who aren’t divided as much as the evening news reporters and television pundits say:
Hadassah–Mount Scopus is located between predominantly Jewish West Jerusalem and East Jerusalem,
a conglomeration of numerous Arab villages. Fifty percent of patients in the emergency department and on the inpatient unit are Palestinian Arabs from East Jerusalem and the West Bank. One need only look out the window of the hospital to see how closely entwined the populations are in this geographic area. Because of the proximity, heath care issues can affect everyone.
Dr. Kharasch spent the month working alongside doctors and nurses from different countries, backgrounds, and cultures, treating diseases that don’t discriminate between Arab and Jew, together:
For obvious reasons, politics was never discussed in the hospital. One’s alliance did not seem to matter. Jews took care of Arabs, and Arabs took care of Jews. No one blinked an eye. It was clear to me that people there were judged not by where they came from but by their caring and respectful nature and ability to provide medical care of the highest quality for all children and families.
Dr. Kharasch believes this hospital — “this ‘slice of peace’ in an area of escalating conflict” — gives him reasons to be hopeful:
I am not sure there will ever be peace in Israel, but what I witness each day is a peaceful coexistence between Arab and Jewish families and medical staff. All share the common belief and goal that the health and well-being of children are paramount. If there ever is to be peace, it seems to me that caring for each other and each other’s children is a good place to start.