Israel has taken great pride in a recent BBC report regarding the Jewish state’s genuine care for its enemies. The BBC is often seen as biased against Israel, but the report in question had nothing but good things to say about Israel over its selfless care for victims of the ongoing civil war in Syria, a nation still officially at war with Israel.
BBC Middle East correspondent Kevin Connolly visited Ziv Hospital in the northern Israel town of Safed and brought back a story of Syrians under fire whose lives were literally saved by their worst enemy.
Connolly interviewed a Syrian mother giving birth to her baby at the Israeli hospital after the clinic in her own village turned her away due to its inability to handle her case amidst the chaos of war. The child “will one day have quite a story to tell. That is, if his parents ever decide to tell him,” noted Connolly. The woman was already in labor when she was turned away from her local clinic. “Her worried husband knew that it was possible to get her treated in Israel - and so the couple began a dangerous race to the frontier in a country at war and a desperate race against time,” the reporter continued.
Like many before them, the anxious couple came to a point near the Israel-Syria border where they knew Israeli military patrols would see them. Shortly after, an Israeli military ambulance picked up the woman and transferred her on time to Ziv Hospital.
Connolly pointed out that the new mother “was the 177th person to make the journey to the emergency room in what has become one of the most extraordinary subplots of Syria’s agonizing civil war.”
The astonished correspondent explained that the phenomenon has become so common-place that an “informal system of patient transfer has become so well-established that some patients have even arrived with letters of referral written by doctors in Syria for their Israeli counterparts.”
The director of Ziv Hospital, Dr. Oscar Embon, told the BBC that he hoped the experience of the Syrian patients would be different from what they had been raised to believe about Israel. “Most of them express their gratitude and their wish for peace between the two countries,” said Embon.
Of course, decades of indoctrination are hard to reverse in just a few short days or weeks. Embon said he doesn’t “expect [the Syrian patients] to become lovers of Israel and ambassadors for what we do here, but in the interim I expect they will reflect on what was their experience here and that they will reflect differently on what the regime tells them about Israelis and Syrians being enemies.”
Connolly went on to write about the compelling human dramas taking place in the hospital.
“Most of the patients…won’t talk about what they have been through - they are too frightened about what would happen to them back in Syria if it emerged they had been to Israel,” he noted.
One person who was ready to talk was an Israeli Arab social worker who identified himself as Faris, whose job it was to calm the disoriented Syrian visitors, many of whom come to only to find themselves being treated in an enemy state they have been taught is a bloodthirsty foe to all Arabs.
Faris’ job is perhaps the most difficult of all at Ziv Hospital. In addition to having to explain a complicated situation, he also must eventually say goodbye to people with whom he has formed a strong bond, knowing that he will never see them again.
“When people come here for two months,” Faris told Connolly, “a relationship starts between you and them and becomes stronger. Then they go home and the sad thing is you can’t be in contact with them because their villages are ‘enemy’ villages.”
As word of the outstanding and unexpected medical care in Israel spreads, Connolly is certain that more and more Syrians will make their way to the border. Especially as Syrians gradually learn that the Jews of Israel mean them no harm.