Friday, August 8, 2008

The Pillow

I received another wonderful story of the real Israel from my friend Larry at the Emek Medical Center which for the umpteenth time shows what real people are like here. I think it woorth repeating in its entirety - no need for any further comment

I was standing near the entrance / exit of the hospital’s main lobby at about 4:00 PM when I overheard what sounded like an interesting conversation. I heard a middle-aged Arab saying to a Jew, “… and here I am leaving while he’s staying.” I introduced myself and that’s how I met Ahmed from Kfar (village) Manda, a large Arab village about ¾ of an hour northwest of Afula.

Ahmed is in his 50’s and has the lean hard suntanned body of a man who has worked the land and a deep-lined face that has seen, up close, the reality of Israel. He had been hospitalized in our department of Internal Medicine and had nothing but praise for the multi-ethnic staff that attended to him. What transpired today between him and his Ethiopian Jewish roommate (Gadi), as told to me by Ahmed, is what I shall share with you now.

“Gadi and me, we stepped outside the ward to have a cigarette”, Ahmed began. Smoking is prohibited throughout the hospital campus and I suppose that is why it’s such a popular Israeli pastime. “We were talking, just like you and me now, when all of a sudden Gadi stopped talking and was staring at some place on the wall above us.” Ahmed shuffled his feet a bit and looked off in the distance, mimicking what was obviously his roommate’s silent facial expression. “I asked him, hey Gadi – what are you looking at? He didn’t answer.” He then explained to me that Gadi went rigid as stone, began shaking and then collapsed unconscious against the wall. “I grabbed his body that suddenly felt like a bag of cement and lowered him slowly to the ground. I kept my hand under his head – propping it up like this,” as he gestured to me with an upturned right palm. “Like a pillow, so he wouldn’t bang his head on the stone floor. Gadi began convulsing and his head was banging up and down against my hand and not the hard floor.” Now Ahmed’s open palm was gesticulating in a quick up and down motion. “”Drool and foul smelling liquid ran out of Gadi’s mouth and onto my hand, but I would not let him go.”

What passersby saw was Ahmed from Kfar Manda in his hospital pajamas kneeling in an outside corridor next to an unconscious middle-aged Ethiopian Jew, pillowing his head with his own hand to keep his dark-skinned acquaintance from injuring himself.

Help was only seconds away and Gadi was returned, unharmed to his bed. He awoke not long after that, not remembering falling or being held. They had joked earlier today about Gadi going home and Ahmed having to stay behind. And there we were at the exit, with Ahmed telling me in a jovial tone, “And here I am leaving while he is staying behind. Funny how life, with no warning, can suddenly flip around.”

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