Sunday, September 14, 2008

Intensive care

It's been a month since the last post and for good reason. Together with other family members and friends, I've been undergoing the traumatic experience of accompanying a dear and close relation through a life-threatening disease. The imminent threat to someone dear to you has the effect of reshuffling priorities dramatically. But now that she has hopefully embarked on a long road to recovery, I can start returning to other more trivial pursuits - like this blog.

A spin-off of the experience was the opportunity to observe life in the wards and intensive care units of two hospitals. Apart from admiring the overall sense of professionalism, compassion, dedication and plain hard work of the medical staff, I was also struck by their ethic composition. The wards and intensive care units were staffed by a bewildering mixture of veteran Israelis (ultra-orthdox, orthodox, traditional and secular) Russian and other immigrants and Arabs. There aren't many work places in Israel where one sees these different ethnic and religious groups working together, let alone working cheerily together as a team. Nor are there numerous situations in which a Jew and and Arab would be sharing adjacent beds. But if Jews and Arabs rarely mix when they are in good health, sickness and accidents throw them together willy-nilly, imposing co-existence.


It's not utopian. There are more Arab and Ethiopian-Jewish orderlies than Russian or veteran ones; the nurses are mainly Russian or Arab and the doctors tend to be 'Israeli' but I did talk to at least one Arab doctor. And in rare case of an Arab -Israel attaining a senior medical position, Dr. Masad Barhoum, was recently appointed the new director of the Western Galilee Hospital-Nahariya, which makes him responsible for a catchment area of half a million people.

Populist politicians like Avigdor Lieberman or Bibi Netanyahu occasionally tell the media that the main threat facing the country is the internal "demographic" threat posed by Israel's Arabs. If, heaven forbid, an accident should befall them, while, say, electioneering in the western Galilee, it might be an instructive experience for them to be washed by an Arab orderly or to be operated on by a mixed Arab-Jewish team under the supervision of Dr. Barhoum.