In Ashkelon’s Barzilai’s underground children’s ward, sick Gazans lay alongside sick Israelis as a clown hopped around trying to coax smiles from them all.
A senior doctor said that his facility has close ties with Gaza’s Shifa Hospital, and accepts many of its patients who need treatment the Gazan hospital cannot provide. He said it isn’t uncommon to have a colleague in Gaza call him for assistance even as rockets rain down on Ashkelon.
“It might seem completely absurd”, he said. “But we have the privilege of being doctors. Our medical ethics do not distinguish between patients. We treat whoever needs to be treated.”
A Gaza woman, whose two-month old granddaughter was being treated for an unidentified ailment, wept when asked how she was coping. She said she was fortunate her grand-daughter was getting the best medical treatment but was worried about her daughter and other grandchildren in Gaza City.
“I am very sad and hurt,” she said in Arabic. “We want peace, not wars.” She refused to identify herself or have her picture taken for fear of retribution if her presence in Israel was discovered in Gaza.
A few doors down in the maternity ward, 23 year old Keren Shaltiel was resting after giving birth to her second child. She said hearing sirens and exploding rockets outside while in labour was bizarre.
Meanwhile, another hospital about 150 miles northeast of Gaza is “also feeling the effects of what’s happening down south”, said a friend who wrote to me. He writes “Since Israel decided to deal with a mortal threat to its citizens, some Arab citizens of Israel have chosen to riot. One must question, what are they angry about? That Israel and the Jews have once again been forced to defend themselves or the fact that we dare to do so?”
“The Medical Center once again finds itself at the crossroad between humanity and maniacal human behavior. Since yesterday (December 28, 2008), the center has already received and treated eight casualties of Arab rioting. A couple on their way home to Afula found themselves in a maelstrom of rocks being hurled at vehicles by rioters from the Arab town of Um El Fahm (15 minutes away).
They attacked traffic on Highway 65 that connects Afula to central and coastal Israel, the same road that was closed during the riots of 2000. The couple was treated in our ER. Later, two boys aged 9 & 11 from the same Arab town were rushed to EMC suffering from a near-fatal gunshot wound that barely missed their hearts. Apparently, a bullet discharged from the pistol of one of the rioters, wounding both boys who were standing nearby. Later in the day, four Border Patrol Policemen were treated here for wounds received by flying rocks. They did not shoot their attackers, even though they were armed.
The Jewish and Arab staff of the center continue to quietly mend the broken bodies that stumble or are carried through our doors. Now, with emotions stirred and extremists waiting at every corner, we have been placed on high alert. Once again, we must be ready to deal with a mass casualty event, hoping that it does not materialize. We’re heading into a cold winter, yet the temperature is rising all around us”.