Sunday, May 27, 2007


Jerusalem Post columnist Larry Derfner examines the work of Jews and Arabs working together in hospitals who say that "the life-and-death nature of their work - and the purity of purpose they are trained to bring to it - obliterate all on-the-job considerations of race, religion or politics."

Derfner looks at Jewish and Arab doctors without borders and the important work they are doing for Israelis and Palestinians alike "without there being even a molecule of ethnic tension in the atmosphere, or at least not among the employees."

"Dr. David Zangen, a pediatric endocrinologist at Jerusalem's Hadassah-University Medical Center, Mount Scopus, is the center of a striking human tableau. Zangen is wearing a knitted kippa and sandals. On his left is Dr. Maha Atwan, a Muslim pediatrician from Bethlehem, her hair and neck covered by a cream-colored shawl. On Zangen's right is Dr. Abdul Salam Abu Libdeh, a Muslim pediatrician from Jerusalem's Beit Hanina neighborhood, wearing no religious markings and looking, in polo shirt and slacks, like the secular cosmopolitan he is.

Together we speak Hebrew and English; when Zangen is on the phone, Abu Libdeh and Atwan speak to each other in Arabic. The warmth and admiration among the three is obvious in their easy humor with each other.

Until recently, Zangen, 47, was chief medical officer of the IDF's Infantry Command. He led a public campaign in 2002 to refute Palestinian charges of an IDF 'massacre' in Jenin during Operation Defensive Shield. Atwan, 30, studied in Jordan and has to pass through IDF checkpoints on his way to and from work. Abu Libdeh, 36, studied medicine in Syria and says he "thinks twice before I'll travel to Ramallah and put up with the checkpoints." .

Like the 5,000 Jews and Arabs working at Hadassah's Mount Scopus and Ein Kerem hospitals, as well as the many tens of thousands more working at other Israeli hospitals, Zangen, Abu Libdeh and Atwan are able to work together as medical professionals, despite their opposing nationalities, by adhering to two principles. One is that the commitment to healing the sick makes nationality irrelevant. The other, say Zangen, Atwan, Abu Libdeh and every other hospital employee, Jew or Arab, interviewed for this article, is that during work hours, political discussions across ethnic lines are best kept brief and superficial."

Their patients are in good hands.

1 comment:

Wilbur Post said...

In case you're wonder why I prefaced the heading with the word "real" it's my personal reaction to the appalling attempt by Duncan McLean, the regional head of "Doctors Without Borders" to whitewash its connection with an employee who was recently arrested for his part in an assassination plot against Israeli PM Ehud Olmert -