As the only hospital and emergency
facility in our volatile region, Emek’s reputation as a health provider grew —
while never wavering from our guiding philosophy of Coexistence through Medicine.
When man’s inhumanity to man wreaks havoc on our local population, Emek’s mixed
ethnic medical staff of Jews and Arabs heroically works shoulder to shoulder
saving lives and proving that we are capable of looking after one another.
While the media cameras focus on the carnage, unnoticed people from neighboring
Jenin with their children stream to Emek for salvation.
Their untold stories and treatments could fill a medical journal. Emek Medical
Center has proven that peaceful coexistence is not as difficult as the
extremists would have us believe.
An Untold Story
A premature baby boy, born in Jenin
was brought to Emek near certain death.
Today the child is alive and well and his father, Muhamed Abu Siham, says:
“May God bless the doctors of Emek who saved my son.”
A Viper, Salaam and Hope
One evening in June a deadly viper struck three times into the right palm
of thirteen-year-old Salaam (Arabic for Peace). She and her mother (Bahiya)
came from Jenin, a Palestinian West Bank town. They were living in a tent
provided for them so that they could be nearer to their work in the fields of
the Bedouin village of Shibli that neighbors Emek Medical Center. Salaam was
first taken to an Arab hospital in Nazareth that was not equipped to deal with
her quickly deteriorating condition. The Nazareth hospital referred them to
Emek Medical Center in Afula. Salaam’s condition was critical and the Pediatric
Emergency room was their only hope of saving her. Bahiya had heard frightening
rumors about the Jews, but on arrival she was greeted with compassion,
professionalism and humanity that soon melted away all her fears.
Her daughter, now near death, was rushed into surgery where her arm was opened
from palm to shoulder in order to drain and cleanse the poison from her body.
She spent the next few days on life support in our Pediatric Intensive Care
We spoke in the Pediatric Surgery Department where Salaam is now recovering. I
asked Bahiya how she feels here among the Arab and Jewish professionals of this
hospital. She said, “God bless you all. I never would have believed such a
thing was possible.” I then asked her if she would tell her story to her
friends back in Jenin.
Her first response was that she did not want to go back there. Then her dark
eyes grew wide and she nodded before the words left her mouth, “Yes … they must
be told the truth.”
Little Salaam – a young girl named Peace. Maybe her story
together with so many others like it could be the threads of a fabric that
might one day cover and smother all the hatred in this land.
Premature and Doing Well
Emek’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) is renowned as a life-preserving
unit with impressive achievements to its credit over the past several years.
Our NICU cares for pre-term babies and for newborn infants born at term who are
in need of specialized monitoring and treatment. Out of 4,500 annual births,
approximately 400 premature and full-term infants are admitted to the NICU.
Most babies are in our care for about one month and the more serious cases stay
as long as four months.
Babies born even as early as the 24th or 25th week of pregnancies (500 – 750
grams) have an impressive survival rate and pre-term births of the 30th week
and beyond (1250 – 1500 grams) have an exceptionally high survival rate.
Officially, follow up on the development and growth of each premature child
continues for the first three years of their lives, while many families and the
children themselves maintain close contact with our unit for many years thereafter.
Our Unit has a unique Pre-Discharge Family Room with home like furnishings for
mothers with children who will require special home-treatment needs to be used
during the days prior to their babies release. This facility includes all the
specialized medical equipment that the mother will need to use at home and is
overseen by our staff to provide guidance.
Emek’s NICU is another living example of Coexistence through Medicine, as 50%
of the newborns treated are Jewish and the other half are Arab. Consistently on
the rise are the number of pre-term births among the Russian and Ethiopian
Coexistence in Pediatric Oncology
As I walked across the hospital
campus, I breathed deep a heavy freshness in the air - a promise of blessed rain
for our parched and thirsty land. Before the rain comes my spirit experiences
an uplifting and I know that something in the air is good.
I entered the Pediatric Oncology Ambulatory Clinic that is garnished outside
with colorful playground toys that hint of health and happiness. Inside I was
introduced to a Palestinian mother, Samira, and her five year old son, Haled,
who is suffering from Abdominal Cancer. They are residents of neighboring
Jenin. An Israeli Arab man also happened to be there with his child who was
receiving chemo-therapy and he volunteered to act as translator. We sat in a
small, comfortable office and I asked the woman how she and her son ended up in
'In Jenin they could do no more for my son. So, we were sent to an Arab hospital
in Nazareth. His disease was so advanced that they too could do nothing. That
is when I was told I could bring him to Emek in Afula.' She was dressed in
traditional Arab Muslim woman clothing; head covered and a floor-length
embroidered dress. She looked down and around the room as she spoke. Her hands
'What did you feel when you realized you could come here with your son?' I
looked deep into her dark brown eyes as I asked this question.
Then, she stared back into me and answered, 'I was afraid. Because of the
Intifada and what had happened in Jenin I thought the Israelis would take
revenge on us. I was afraid and confused but I had no choice. My son was
dying.' She had left her husband and three other children in Jenin and stepped
into the void.
'How were you received when you arrived here?'
'I could not believe what happened.' Her stare went from me, to the ceiling to
our interpreter and back to me. 'I was warmly welcomed, offered tea and coffee
and unexpectedly surrounded by caring concerned people. I felt safe'.
Haled was in critical condition, admitted to the hospital and spent 12 days in
the Children's Cancer Ward. During that crucial period he underwent his first
operation to perform a biopsy on a very large tumor in his stomach and he
received emergency chemo-therapy.
Dr. Hertzl, the head of Pediatric Oncology, reassured her. One of Emek's social
workers, an Arab woman from a nearby village, took her under her wing and
arranged for housing and necessities in neighboring Nazareth. 'How long has
Haled been receiving treatment here now?' I asked.
'Five months.' She looked to the department's nurse and they smiled at one
another. A smile that transcended borders and politics. A smile of mothers in
which I saw hope for both Palestinians and Israelis.
After the tumor had been reduced in size by months of chemo-therapy, most of it
was removed surgically last month and he now continues his chemo-therapy as an
ambulatory patient. The boy still has a long way to go.
Knowing that other residents of Jenin have been treated in Ha'Emek yet were
afraid to speak openly of their experience, I asked, 'Do your family and
friends in Jenin know about Haled's treatment here?'
'Yes. And not only them. Because I am grateful for all that has been done for me
and my son, I volunteered to tell my story to an Israeli Arab language
newspaper. My people need to hear the truth in their own language.' She hugged
little Haled who stood close to her while connected to his intravenous
Our translator asked the boy, 'Do you like Dr. Hertzl?' He shook his head yes.
'Do you know that the Doctor is a Jew?'
The boy shyly nodded and whispered, 'He is a good man.'
And the truth is being told. The Arabic daily, Al Sinara, ran a full-page story
The story of Samira, Haled, Dr. Hertzl, the loving staff in Pediatric Oncology
and Emek Medical Center is another example of Coexistence Through Medicine.
It's another story of coexistence at eye-level & beneath the media (to use
an expression from an American journalist friend).
I walked back across the campus, breathing deep the fresh
air of hope.
Director of Development
Emek Medical Center