While the world continues to look on, unsure how to react, more than 100,000 Syrians have been killed and another 2.5 million have fled their country. Meanwhile, quietly but effectively, Israeli doctors treat Syrians able to reach their borders.
Dr. Zeev Zonis, director of the pediatric intensive care unit at Western Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya, recalled a very seriously ill 13-year-old girl who had to undergo a series of complex surgeries to her face, hands and legs. As she slowly recovers, the hospital’s social workers and education staff work with her daily. The hospital even makes sure its medical clowns entertain her frequently.
In an email sent to Washington Jewish Week, the hospital reported that the girl told her doctor, “I do not remember much of what happened. I was at the supermarket in the village with my brothers and suddenly a missile fell not far from us. There was a loud boom: I flew away and lost consciousness. When I woke up I was already here in the ward and after a few hours I realized I was in Israel. I do not know who treated me and how I got here. Everyone is worried about me and is helping me, but I miss my parents and siblings, friends and my country. These doctors saved my life; if I was not cared for, I would not be alive right now.”
Two days after she arrived at the hospital, her aunt joined her, and told the hospital, “The doctors here are angels, what they do for her and other patients we do not take it for granted. This is a great blessing. Thankfully my niece is returning to herself slowly, we see improvement every day. I would never believe that a foreign country would treat us this way.”
Once her niece has improved enough, the two women plan “to return to our homeland,” her aunt told the hospital staff.
The teenager is just one of 58 Syrians who have received medical treatment at this facility.
“This number is a just a modest drop in the ocean,” said Dr. Masad Barhoum, the hospital’s director general. “But to save even one life, for us, this is to save an entire world.”
The first patient was brought here in March, and a steady flow of seriously injured patients has continued ever since. The youngest victim was 3 years old.
A 23-year-old man arrived in critical condition, suffering from gunshot wounds to his face.
Dr. Eyal Sela said that following medical tests, it was learned that the young man had a broken jaw and teeth, and the bullet entrance wound was infected. Other problems to his face made it impossible for him to eat.
Following surgeries to restore his jaw and close his wounds by replacing some skin and muscle, the patient is recovering nicely, the doctor noted.
“He faces a long road to recovery and rehabilitation,” but Sela said he should be fine thanks to the quick treatment.
That patient told his story in an email sent to WJW. “Suddenly fire opened around me from all directions. I was hit and fell to the ground. One of my friends dragged me into the building and started to treat me. During his attempts to save me, I heard the fire continue and grow until it became quiet. Later, I came to a clinic that told me I had suffered severe damage to my mouth and jaw and may never be able to eat normally again.”
He said he was “grateful to the nurses, they have treated me kindly without the feeling that I was from a foreign land. Everything I have needed they have given me, they have made sure I have rested and even brought me chocolate after I had not tasted food in so long.
“In Syria, Israel is portrayed as an enemy, but nobody knows that your doctors and nurses and all the people around me are acting out of humanity and professionalism. I’m waiting to return home to Syria and tell my family we have a partner. I believe there will be peace between Israel and Syria in the near future, God willing.”
Wonderful work is also being done at The Baruch Padeh Medical Center in Poriya, where 11 Syrians were treated in a little more than a week.
“Some of them had limb wounds. The others, chest wounds,” said Dr. Jacob Farbstein, the hospital’s director. The wounds are either from shells or gun shots, he said, adding he has not seen any evidence of chemical warfare.
Treating wounded from other countries is “pretty normal. We are a government hospital. Our goal is to treat everyone who is needing it,” he said during a phone interview. And they are grateful, he added.
Farbstein said it wasn’t totally clear how the patients arrived at the hospital. “They are brought by their friends to the border, and the Israel forces are bringing them here,” he noted.
The patients all appear scared about their fate, “but they were not afraid of us. They trusted us.”
Dr. Barhoum noted that his hospital “has a long history of treating others through the cooperation of humanitarian aid efforts. I am proud to lead such an institution that is part of a health-care system that values all lives. For us, this work is sacred.”
Two Syrians coming to his hospital have died but many dozens were stabilized, treated and successfully released, he said.
According to various reports, Syrians also have been treated at the Rebecca Sieff Hospital in Sfat.