Thursday, June 28, 2018

Real Coexistence: The Israeli Hospital Experience - by Varda Meyers Epstein

It’s just the way it is. And so I look around me in the hospital and murmur quietly to my husband, “Apartheid,” and he laughs.

Varda Meyers Epstein..
Judean Rose/Elder of Ziyon..
27 June '18..

If you want to experience the real Israel, go to the hospital. It’s where you’ll meet all kinds of Israelis, and hear all kinds of Hebrew. But you’ll also hear lots and lots of Arabic, and see and interact with lots of Arab people.

Now it’s easy to stay in an Anglo bubble in Israel. You do it by living in neighborhoods that are mostly inhabited by those from English-speaking countries. Lots of people do it, including this writer. It makes it so much easier to be with people who have the same Western mindset. Living in the bubble also translates to local stores that cater to you and carry the products you remember from the Old Country. Things like Ocean Spray cranberry sauce and real maple syrup. If you like those sorts of things.

Live here long enough, however, and you’ll God forbid be forced to seek medical care. That means stepping outside that comfortable bubble and getting along with others. And since Israel is a melting pot, “others” means people from Russia, Ethiopia, Argentina, Morocco, Yemen, France, and so many other countries.

Not everyone speaks the universal language of English, of course, and not everyone speaks Hebrew, if it comes right down to it. As a result, just about everyone speaks sign language. Not the official kind of sign language for the deaf community, but the kind of sign language people resort to in the desperation of needing to be understood where there is no common language.

The real shock for the uninitiated, however, is that Israeli hospitals are full of Arabs. I can’t give you the breakdown for the percent of Arabs treated in Israeli hospitals. According to Elder of Ziyon, however, over 100,000 Palestinian Authority Arabs were treated in Israeli hospitals in 2015. The non-Israeli patient load at Safra Children’s Hospital of Tel HaShomer Sheba’s pediatric oncology ward is at times 75% of the total ward population, while Ichilov Hospital’s pediatric oncology ward patients are 90% non-Israeli, meaning the patients are largely foreigners and PA residents.

All this is just the tip of the iceberg.

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