We are family: Jewish and Arab medical staff respond to ethnic tensions – The Jerusalem Post

Posted By on May 16, 2021

As corona raged all over Israel, the stories of Arab doctors or nurses helping Jewish patients to say Shema Yisrael or the prayers that accompany the departure of a soul offered a ray of hope in a bleak time.Just a few weeks after the country appeared to have left the pandemic behind, medical staff have been watching with concern and sadness the violence and riots flaming up in many mixed cities, but also vouching that tensions will not affect their ability to work in harmony.From all over Israel, doctors and nurses offered testimony that coexistence is possible, and asked Israeli society at large to learn from what happens in hospitals, such as the need to avoid talking about politics, or that some doctors were not ready to speak publicly about the topic for fear of backlash in their communities.Between 20% and 25% of our 5,000 employees are Arab, which is about the same rate of Arab patients we have, said Prof. Jonathan Halevy, co-director of Shaare Zedek Medical Center, Jerusalem. I believe that our multi-ethnic, multi-cultural group well represents our multi-ethnic multi-cultural city.Shaare Zedek began operations 119 years ago. I have run it for 31 years. There have never been tensions among the staff on an ethnic basis. We are all united by the mission to work for the patients. I know it sounds very banal but it is true. Politics remains outside the hospital.Halevy described these times as very trying. I dont think there is a single Israeli citizen today who is not worried for this unprecedented situation. Medical staff is not different except that no matter what, they always report for duty.Halevy pointed out that the head of Shaare Zedeks corona department was an Arab doctor from East Jerusalem, while his head nurse was a haredi (ultra-Orthodox) mother of seven.They worked hand in hand, he said.In order to respond to the tragic ethnic tensions that have seen both Jewish and Arab mobs turned violent, many hospitals have chosen to send out a message of coexistence.We call on everyone: its time to take a deep breath, stop the violence and return to dialogue and sanity, said the heads of Shaare Zedek, Hadassah-University Medical Center, , Netanyas Laniado Medical Center, Maaynei Hayeshua Medical Center, Bnei Brak, and the Italian, French and English hospitals in Nazareth. We know that the extremists we have seen in recent days do not represent any population here, and they must not be allowed to dictate the agenda of us all.The Galilee Medical Faculty in Safed of Bar-Ilan University created a video featuring its doctors and nurses from different sectors standing together side by side with the soundtrack of the iconic Israeli song I have no other country.The Bnei Zion Medical Center in Haifa organized a meal for its Jewish and Arab staff to celebrate coexistence and to call on everyone to face this dramatic period with patience and tolerance.The Rambam Medical Center, Haifa, promoted a social media campaign featuring Arab and Jewish personnel holding shalom-salam signs.When I look at what is happening, the life in our hospitals feels like a dream, said Linda Hashem, an Arab senior nurse who has been working at Rambam for 26 years. I have never felt anything unpleasant here, I have never experienced racism.The staff does not take into consideration the origin of the patients, she added, while it has occurred that some patients were a little hesitant about the identity of the staff caring for them, but very rarely.As a Christian, I think that what is happening in the streets is more connected to the religion aspect than to the ethnic group or to the language spoken, Hashem added.The good relations among staff at Rambam are not limited to the working hours. Jews, Muslims and Christians also see each other and spend time together outside the hospital, explained Khalid Namora, another Arab nurse.All year long I wait to go and celebrate Mimouna, he said, referring to the traditional Jewish Maghrebi festival that is held at the end of Passover.My closest friends are the people I work with, he added. Here we have a sense of community, a feeling of family and of mutual respect that it would be very good if we could transfer to the society as a whole.According to Namora, it is very hard to watch what is happening, the disruption of the order, the lack of quiet.I hope all of this will end quickly, he said. It is not good for the country.At work we do not feel who is an Arab or who is a Jew, said Rambam senior nurse Hagar Baruch. During the corona pandemic, we celebrated together the Jewish holidays, the Muslim holidays and the Christian holidays. In the field of medicine, everyone has to help everyone. We are like a family. We do not talk about politics.Health Minister Yuli Edelstein and ministry Director-General Chezy Levy sent out a letter on Thursday night to all the health workers.Edelstein and Levy praised their mission to save life and the ability of the health system to lead the way for Israel in terms of coexistence, but they also warned the workers that any support for violence and against equality or sanctity of life would be sanctioned with disciplinary actions.

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We are family: Jewish and Arab medical staff respond to ethnic tensions - The Jerusalem Post

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