Where in the world do fighters attack an enemy country and then seek that country’s medical care? The answer is, of course, Israel. In the 2006 war in southern Lebanon, the Western Galilee Medical Center was hit by Lebanese rockets, destroying eight rooms. The hospital treated 1,800 civilians during the conflict, one third of whom were Lebanese. Dr. Uri Ruhani recalls, “They came across the border and were treated free of charge. It’s ironic. These same inhabitants had treatment at the hospital they hit.”
Today, as the Syrian civil war drags on, Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters injured in their battles to oust President Bashar al – Assad have been transferred to Israeli field hospitals in the Golan. Civilians have also been streaming towards the border to seek help from injuries inflicted by their countrymen.
Recently, a Syrian woman was taken in shortly before giving birth to a baby boy. In another story, a handwritten doctor’s note was found attached to the clothing of a Syrian man brought in by the IDF in critical condition. The polite note, in Arabic, opened with “Hello, distinguished surgeon,” and explained that the patient suffered from a gunshot wound in the chest. It asked Israel to save his life because the Syrian doctors could not provide the necessary medical treatment.
However, not all patients are carrying something so safe. Last week, doctors received an unpleasant surprise when they found a live hand grenade in the pocket of another Syrian patient. The discovery led to the temporary evacuation of the hospital’s trauma unit, until police sappers could remove the explosive device.
Many Arabs are wary of receiving Israeli care. Most are shocked by their humane treatment after being indoctrinated with years of hatred and lies. Nurses are trained to ease the transition when patients regain consciousness in an “enemy” country.
In what can hardly be called a shocking revelation, it seems the Arab media does not publicize Israeli benevolence. Instead, the Arab population, from the earliest age, is inundated by a barrage of venomous anti-Israel propaganda. The result is that even when a bright spot emerges, it is quashed or ignored. One such opportunity recently died when Yad Vashem wished to present a certificate of recognition to the family of the first Arab ever to be named “Righteous Among the Nations” for his heroic actions during the Holocaust.
Mohamed Helmy, an Egyptian doctor, lived in Berlin during World War II and hid a Jewish family from Nazi authorities. When the wave of deportation of Jews from Berlin began, the Gutman family, who were friends of the Helmys, needed a hiding place.
“Dr. Helmy hid me in his cabin in Berlin from March 10, 1942, until the battles ended,” Anna Gutman wrote after the war. “From 1942 and on, I did not have any contact with the outside world. The Gestapo knew that Dr. Helmy was our family physician, and they knew that he owned a cabin in Berlin’s Buch Quarter. He managed to evade all their interrogations… He would bring me to friends where I would stay for several days, introducing me as his cousin from Dresden. Everything Helmy did for me was out of the kindness of his heart and I am forever grateful to him.”
With the help of the Associated Press, Yad Vashem tracked down Helmy’s cousins in Cairo, but they declined the award, due to “hostile relations” between the two countries. They added that had “any other country offered the honor, they would have accepted.” The widespread media interest in this story underscores the potential goodwill that could have resulted from a more rational ending.
It is understandable that Helmy’s family would not be comfortable accepting the honor as they would most likely be ostracized at home. Yet, the hypocrisies abound. Powerful Arab leaders who are openly critical of Israel’s humanitarian behavior will secretly seek the help of their sworn foes. In a story that was kept very quiet, the granddaughter of senior Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh was treated for a rare disease at a hospital in Petach Tikvah. Had her grandfather paid her a visit, he would have passed another terrorist visitor in the lobby, where the remains of a rocket that penetrated four floors are displayed.
But the hospital’s origin adds another twist. Petach Tikvah was one of the first settlements started by Jewish refugees fleeing the pogroms in Czarist Russia in the 19th century. What is the lesson here? Perhaps the message is that in galus, we remain unswerving in our goals of Torah and chesed in the face of constant oppression and slander. We do not seek the media spotlight or the praise of nations; we are motivated by a higher cause. So despite efforts to suppress the story of lifesaving efforts of Israeli doctors, Syrian rebels know that they can count on our hospitals. Just one request: Please disarm at the door.