Heart to heart – Israeli surgeons and Iraqi children

Friday, February 02, 2007 |  by Nicole Jansezian
JERUSALEM – Faced with the choice of saving his daughter’s life while potentially jeopardizing his family in northern Iraq, Abu Sakar chose life.

It wasn’t a hard decision for the father of three, but it was one laden with great risk as he left his home town in northern Iraq to head to Israel.

“Yes there was a danger in coming here, but they gave me a dream,” Abu Sakar said as he watched his now healthy 10-year-old daughter, Sakar, bounding through the Old City in Jerusalem and shyly smiling for the camera.

Sakar was diagnosed with a fatal heart disease and would have died without a specific surgery that she could not get in Iraq. In a most unlikely scenario, a Christian organization, Shevet Achim, brought this Iraqi family to Israeli doctors for a new chance at life.

This is a complicated procedure considering the two nations lack diplomatic relations and where in Iraq the mere mention of Israel can arouse sometimes lethal suspicion.

But nationality and religion knew no borders on the operating table, where Sakar, a Kurdish Iraqi from a Moslem family, received life-saving treatment at the hands of a Jewish Israeli doctor.

“The doctors here were like friends,” Abu Sakar said two weeks after his daughter’s surgery. “I was very well received. I didn’t feel any rejection or anything for being Iraqi. I didn’t feel like I was surrounded by doctors, but by friends.”

The procedure changed Abu Sakar’s perspective on Israel. By the end of the trip, he wanted to live here. He even said he had Jewish roots, his grandmother on his father’s side.

“I always thought that Israel was one way,” he said. “I didn’t expect this. The people are wonderful and kind.”

The full article will appear in Israel Today’s March edition.

For more information on Shevet Achim, visit the website at www.shevet.org.

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