Sunday, February 11, 2007

Israeli Hospital Treats Wounded Palestinians (Israel the Gem, Good vs evil

Israeli Hospital Treats Wounded Palestinians (Israel the Gem, Good vs evil)

By Julie Stahl Jerusalem Bureau Chief February 09, 2007

Ashkelon, Israel ( - Despite the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Israel continues to treat Palestinians in its medical system, including an Israeli hospital in this southern coastal city that is helping those wounded in recent internecine fighting in the Gaza Strip.
Barzilai Medical Center has treated sick and wounded Palestinians for more than a decade but over recent weeks many more "severely injured" Palestinians than usual have been hospitalized there, said Dr. Ron Lobel, the hospital's medical director.
This week 11 Palestinians were in Barzilai's wards, among them Tawfik, a 23-year-old from Jabaliya in the Gaza Strip who was shot in the leg by a Hamas gunman.
His father, Ahmad, told Cybercast News Service that his son had entered a Fatah-supporting neighbor's house with others, to try to break up trouble between the neighbor and Hamas gunmen.
When Tawfik, who was unarmed, refused to leave a Hamas member shot him. He was in the hospital in Gaza for 19 days before being transferred to Barzilai, said his father, who spoke in Hebrew, a language he learned working as a vegetable merchant in Tel Aviv for more than 20 years.
According to Lobel, none of the hospital staff has a problem treating any patient who comes to the hospital. Everyone receives the same treatment in the same wards regardless of ethnic origin or nationality, he said.
"We deliver the service equally whether they come from Gaza or whether they come from Sderot," said Lobel, referring to a nearby Israeli town.
The hospital also treats Israelis who have been wounded by Palestinian rocket attacks launched from the Gaza Strip on Sderot and surrounding areas. Lobel admitted his staff would not place victims of such attacks in wards with Palestinians.
Barzilai is the closest Israeli hospital to the Gaza Strip -- 4.2 miles from the border as the crow, or rocket, flies - and as such, it receives the most critically ill patients from the Palestinian-administered territory, said Lobel. The orthopedic, surgery and vascular surgery departments are most in demand.
Lobel could not say exactly how a decision is made for a particular patient to be taken to Israel, but he thinks families sometimes press the Palestinian health authorities to transfer loved ones to Israel in the hope that they will get better treatment.
"Most patients that I see feel relieved that they are finally in a quiet place."
Patients may be accompanied by a family member, who is provided with hotel accommodation and meals for the length of the patient's stay as well as daily transportation to and from the hospital, he said.
Shlomo Dror, spokesman for the Israeli government office that deals with activities in the Palestinian areas, is responsible for issuing entry permits for Palestinians requiring medical treatment.
Dror told Cybercast News Service Israel maintains a connection with Palestinian hospitals and Health Ministry officials but not with the health minister himself, who is a Hamas member.
Israel tries to help the Palestinians as much as possible, Dror said. Last year, some 80,000 Palestinians from the West Bank and 40,000 from Gaza came to Israel for medical treatment they would not have received otherwise in the P.A. areas.
Palestinian doctors typically approach the hospitals in Israel requesting help. Once the hospital gives approval, the patient must be cleared by the security services before a permit can be issued.
The P.A. pays for the medical treatment at the same rate as Israeli health funds pay for Israelis. That means 40 percent of the treatment is subsidized by the Israeli government, where other foreigners would pay full price, Dror explained.
Medical diplomacy
Dror related a story of a six-year-old Palestinian child who was dying of cancer some years ago. His parents appealed to Israel to take him, even though his older brother had been a suicide bomber who blew up an Israeli bus in 1996.
The child was brought to Israel but eventually died, though the Israeli hospital helped to ease his last weeks. His father told Dror that had he known that the Israelis would treat him so well, he would have prevented his first son from becoming a terrorist, Dror said.
There are other stories, too. Israeli hospitals also treat Palestinians who have been injured in the crossfire during anti-terror operations. Those cases are paid for entirely by Israel, including the case of Maria Aman, who was seriously wounded by shrapnel during an Israeli air force missile attack on an Islamic Jihad terrorist.
And then there are the terrorists who try to take advantage of the system. In 1995, two suicide bombers arrived in Israel by ambulance and then detonated their devices at a soldiers' bus stop and hitchhiking station, killing 21 Israelis, Dror recalled.
Although the security services might not agree with him, he said, he believes it is worthwhile to risk things going wrong to provide medical help to Palestinians in need.
Lobel, who was formerly chief medical officer of the Israeli civil administration in the Gaza Strip, said he has maintained good relations with Palestinian doctors for many years.
"Sometimes the relations are warmer when the times are calm and in times of crises it gets a little bit colder, and then we start again."
He said he believes the good relationships between professionals bodes well for future relations between non-professionals.
Ahmad said he had not been afraid to bring his son to Israel for treatment. No one forced them to come and they had been received very well by the hospital staff, he said.
Most of the people in Gaza don't care about one armed faction or another, he added.
"They want to live. What do I care about Hamas or Fatah? I want someone to employ me. I want to live and be able to have an income to raise my [seven] children."
Asked whether he thought there could ever be peace between Arabs and Jews, Ahmad replied: "We are all cousins. We need to live in this land as we should."

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