Dr. Salman Zarka
The head of Ziv Medical Centere is one of the architects of six years of Israel's medical aid to the population of southern Syrian
On 16 February 2013, seven Syrian citizens, causalities of the civil war, arrived at the Israeli border asking for help. Israeli soldiers, trained to protect the border, found themselves in an unforeseen situation. The military medical forces stationed in the Golan Heights were called, provided first aid, and evacuated the wounded to Ziv Medical Center in Safed, the most northern hospital in Israel.
Syria had tried many times to decimate Israel and many wars were waged between the two countries, the most well known being the Yom Kippur War in 1973 that resulted in thousands of causalities and wounded. Since Israel is Syria’ sworn enemy, it seemed legitimate to close the border. On the other hand, the argument to provide medical care has a solid basis. Jewish religious sources teach about helping the stranger and the enemy and command saving a life. Other peoples living in Israel (Christians, Druze, and Muslims) have the same religious precepts. Another reason specific to the Jewish people is related to the scar of the Holocaust and the impact of understanding the meaning of helplessness. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) medical corps played an active part in the decision; for them it was simple.
Ziv Medical Center
"I'll show you a picture of a child that I took to Israel," said Haim Taib, President of Save a Childs Heart] Africa. "It is for a young lady aged 13, who could not walk and moved in an armchair. She had a hole in the heart and it was not pumping enough oxygen throughout the body. I took her to Israel for an operation and after three months, she left and went back walking. She is at the university. She is like everybody. It is amazing!”
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Save a Child's Heart
Dr. Sion Houri
Save a Child's Heart co-founder Dr. Sion Houri said that when it comes to children's lives, “Our activity is international, non-political and non-religious.”
Dr. Lior Sasson
“Many people might think that I'm naive, but we think treating a child with heart disease is like planting a seed of peace,” said Dr Sasson, the organisation's lead surgeon.
The director of Sheba’s newly established Center for Disaster Medicine and Humanitarian Response, Elhanan Bar-On, is a pediatric orthopedic surgeon, and serves as a lieutenant colonel in the medical corps reserves of the Israel Defense Forces. Over the years, he’s joined several humanitarian aid missions led by the IDF, heading the establishment of field hospitals after earthquakes in Haiti, India, and Nepal, as well as Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines. He’s also worked with the International Red Cross and other humanitarian organizations.
Professor Bar-On on a recently established World Health Organization task force to set standards for training for and care in disaster areas
“In Sheba we see our involvement in global health, especially in under-served regions, as a way of life, not only because we are doing good for the less fortunate, which is tikun olam, but also because it makes us better doctors back home,” Said Professor Elhanan Bar-On.
Dr. Alejandro Roisentul
Dental Surgeon, Specialist in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery he is the Head of the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Unit Ziv Medical Center – Safed
At a time when there are repeated efforts by international organizations to boycott Israel's academia and isolate Israel, Israeli maxillofacial surgeons are highly esteemed in the world. Dr. Roisentul believes that in these days of diplomatic storms and discussions about boycotts, the Israeli medical profession continues to offer an island of stability and also serve as loyal ambassadors of Israel.
The American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons honored Dr. Roisentul with the Board of Trustees’ Special Citation Award for his “many years of Humanitarian Service,” during the 99th Annual Meeting Opening Awards Ceremony in San Francisco on October 11, 2017.
The Buenos Aires legislature and the Argentine Jewish Mutual Aid Association honored him for treating the wounded from an enemy state to Israel – Syria. Dr. Roisentul was declared a "respected human rights figure."
Speaking at the ceremony, Israeli Ambassador to Argentina Ilan Sztulman said that Roisentul's work and the work of other Israeli doctors gives meaning to the Jewish concept of "tikkun olam" ("repairing the world").
Argentine daily newspaper La Nación gave the interview with him – one of many interviews he gave in South America – the headline, "The Argentine surgeon who saves lives on the Syria-Israel border." Argentina's public television aired a story about him titled "A doctor and the hero," and he gave a prime-time interview in Spanish to CNN Argentina.
"I received thousands of messages from people from South America who felt very proud that an Argentine who studied and became a doctor in Buenos Aires came to Israel and is treating wounded Syrians," he said with clear pride as both an Israeli and an ArgentineA Spanish sign hanging in his office, reading, "My hands touched the enemy's blood, not to tear his skin apart, but to heal his wounds."
Israel Center for Disaster Medicine and Humanitarian response
Dr. Elhanan Bar-On examining a patient in Lusaka, Zambia, Jan. 8, 2018.
The IDF Medical Corps Oath mandates that each medical soldier swear to extend a helping hand to the wounded and the sick, whether common or distinguished, friend or foe.T
he IDF has provided humanitarian support on numerous occasions around the world. The Physicians' Oath is unequivocal and commands every physician to save lives regardless of the patients' identity and nationality Thus, for the civilian medical staff, providing medical support to the Syrians is part of their ethos and duty.
Usually, the aim of humanitarian medical aid is primarily to save lives; less to improve the quality of life.
With the aim not just to save lives but also to improve the quality of life, our surgical and orthopedic staff try their utmost to avoid limb amputations. Thus, many patients return to Syria able to walk. This means re-operating several times, prolonging the hospitalization period, and sending patients back to Syria with orthopedic devices that are extremely costly, such as the Ilizarov apparatus (a type of external fixation used in orthopedic surgery to lengthen or reshape limb bones and to treat complex and/or open bone fractures). After discharge, the wounded return to Syria with medications, medical documents in Arabic or English, and, in relevant cases, with medical devices to help them in a country whose health care system has to all intents and purposes collapsed.
The staff at Ziv and the military crew feel privileged to provide humanitarian assistance to these victims of a cruel and pitiless war. Although the State of Israel has a long history of providing humanitarian aid,this time it is different : Syria is a neighboring country but a hostile one. With this project, through the provision of medical care, perhaps a larger ‘healing’ will emerge. In the meantime, Ziv Medical Center continues to treat and give hope to those Syrians who cross our northern border.