I have spent a year working as a volunteer in a ward of a Hadassah hospital for cancer patients.
It is place of desperation sometimes for the patients and their anxious families. And always, a place of dedication, by the hardworking staff.
Because of the length of stay, a relationship builds between the staff and the patient and the family member who stays with them. Hope and joy, tears and suffering, are the daily emotions for all. The highly qualified staff work under stress, but with great compassion.
I have memories that will stay with me always. Sad ones, like parents sitting helplessly besides their suffering children as their small bodies battle the cancer and the drugs. Happy ones like hugs all round and the sense of celebration when someone leaves completely cured.
Lasting impressions will include meeting various nationalities such as Russian, Ukrainian, Siberian, Bolivian, Cypriot, Nigerian, British, American, Bulgarian, as well as Israeli Jews and Arabs, and Arabs from the Territories. People from all over the world who have come to Israel to take advantage of its advanced research and treatment.
The media speaks of the ‘Arab Israeli conflict’. Blame is usually heaped on Israel and among the many biased and out of context accusations, the ugly word – apartheid is one. Let the accusers come with me and watch the working relationship between Jewish and Arab staff, and the equal treatment given to Arab patients. Let them observe the loving interaction between Jews and Arabs: a rabbi speaking words of comfort to a Bedouin mother; the group of Jewish young people singing fun Purim songs to Arab children as well as Jewish; a very orthodox man who plays his accordion for the patients telling me with delight how much pleasure it had given the little Arab boy whose illness had caused blindness; Jewish and Arab family members comforting each other.
In my previous volunteer position of several years, I encountered the same equality of care and compassion given to Arabs from Israeli Aid organizations. I also learned about Jewish sponsored programs that encouraged cultural interaction between Jewish and Arab children and young people.
In this special world of battling the formidable enemy called cancer, I see again the heart and intent of Israel that I have come to appreciate and which most of the world refuses to acknowledge.