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Jerusalem hospital where there is no distinction between Arabs and Jews 21/2/02
Mid-morning, and five casualties
arrive at the Hadassah emergency
room. It's going to be another one
of those days, for the staff and for
Avi Rivkind, head of the unit.
You open the door of the ambulance
and you don't know who's coming,
it's a surprise. The other surprise is
what he has. In this very moment,
you are alone and that's it. It's
you, the patient, and it's your
decision. Your decision is life and
Rivkind and his team alternate
between emergency work
and routine surgery. Is it true you
don't drink in order to keep your
I don't drink, not
in order to... I don't drink. I
don't like to drink.
I drink to keep my hand steadier!
Sustained by gallows humour and medical
idealism, this hospital treats everyone -
Jew and Arab, bomber and victim, those
scythed down by bullet or bomb and, in
this case, a victim of cancer. Rogonde
Amer is often called across to casualty
from her eye clinic. As a Palestinian
member of staff, she too has to deal
with the consequence of violence - against
her people and by her people.
It raises different internal conflicts
but on the outside aspect, you have
to continue to see the patients and
deal with colleagues.
What kind of conflicts does it
You see Palestinians being injured,
losing their eyes. You see Israelis
being injured and sustaining
injuries to their eyes. So it's a
difficult situation. You come to
the original question - why should
all this happen? Why should they
suffer and lose their sight?
On the streets, sudden death often
brings ugly passions to the surface.
Somehow, though, those have been
kept out of the Hadassah.
We are totally isolated from these events
that happen in the streets. Here it
never happened that there was
shouting, screaming outside. So
here it's another environment.
It's a holy environment.
Even the visitors here seem to obey the
unwritten rules of coexistence. In
the intensive care unit, Sharon
Maman is comforted by his mother
and a friend. He has been unable to
speak or move for two and a half
months - since he was caught in a
suicide bombing, peppered with nails
that were packed around the device.
Doctors here say that home-made
shrapnel was dipped in rat poison.
He had a few infections in other
areas in his body - in the head,
in the foot, in the back. At this
point in time, there is probably a
source of infection which we are
trying to look for.
Sharon's mother says that, like all
mothers, she's waiting for his first
word. The violence brings new medical
The blast injury - you can
speak with him. They look from
outside wonderful, as you and I.
Inside, they are totally burned and
they can speak with you and
in a second they drop dead. This
man suffered internal and external
burns in an explosion last month.
I felt heat around me. Everything
looked strange. The scene was so
depressing. Everything looked different.
Mustapha Hirbawi was a Palestinian victim
of a Palestinian suicide bomber. Blown
up in West Jerusalem while looking for
work, he pins his hopes on the Hadassah staff.
Yes, of course, I trust them because
they are doctors. I have to put my
trust in them because they're medical
There are, though, no soap-style
miracle cures here. Tamar el Adi
was shot repeatedly by a
Palestinian who stood over her. She
asked not to share a room with Arab
patients - a request not normally
granted by the hospital.
TAMAR El ADI:
I didn't object to being treated by an
Arab doctor. But I couldn't accept being
in the same room as an Arab patient. I
was afraid. I didn't want to be
face-to-face with them. I wouldn't
be able to sleep, so they agreed to
move me because I made a fuss.
If there is ample suffering here,
there is also joy. Hadassah is
largely funded by a Jewish women's
charity. They paid for this new
mother and baby block. Here there's
ground-breaking fertility treatment
and newly delivered Jew and Muslim
nestle side by side under
observation. Is there any chance
that the little people born here might
grow into adults ready to implement
the hospital's principles in the
TAGREED ABU RAJAB:
There is no discrimination whatsoever.
Of course, it should be the same
outside. I don't discriminate. I
treat them the way they treat me.
I never notice discrimination.
There are, though, some here who
confess their frustration that what
has been nurtured here over the
past 40 years has not travelled
much beyond the hospital walls.
The patients we see here - some of
them are very high-ranking in the
Palestinian Authority. They view
their life together with us as
something that is positive, not
negative. They can see the
potential of living together. There
is a conflict of ideologies because
there is a conflict of two people
over same piece of land.
In the current atmosphere of violence,
there is rather too much ideology
eddying around this hospital in the
Judean hills. Its ideals remain
intact, though, and a reminder to
both communities that common bonds
of humanity can still prove stronger
than those of nationality or religion.
That's what Avi Rivkind discovered
when he was asked to save the life of
a man responsible for two horrific bus
Hassan Salame was responsible for the
explosion of two buses. He was captured
by our soldiers and they called me because
he was severely injured. I operated, and
then he was in a special room in the
department, and I want to tell you a secret -
one of our intelligence guys was
hospitalised for elective surgery.
I couldn't give him a place because
Hassan Salame was in a room.
So we gave him another place, not
even in our department, and he was
there because he was guarded, etc.
I'm telling you, it can be only in
Israel. Crazy people.
I think that this emphasises things we
were taught in medical school - that
when you treat a human being, you
treat it for being a human being,
regardless of colour, race, ethnicity
and other things. I think every day
this gets emphasised here in this
hospital. I don't represent a
minority in seeing that we can
live together. I think that the
majority of Israelis, as well as
Palestinians and the civilians -
normal people - they are up to
living together and to living
Not everything runs smoothly here.
With no end in sight to the current
conflict, there are plans to treble
the size of the trauma unit. If
there's anything positive in all
this, it's only that more will be
able to work and be cared for in
this most unusual place.