Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Powerful theme of JNF doctors trip to Israel: Treating all with humanity

Members of the 2017 Doctors for Israel Mission to Israel.
By Dr. Fredric Cohen, co-chair of JNF's Doctors for Israel Mission

We came together from all over North America -- New York and Dallas; Toronto and Tampa Bay; Philadelphia and Paramus -- all with the same goal, to experience and to support. We walked the sparkling, modern, and very upscale shops and eateries of Sarona, built around the historic Jewish National Fund-renovated first buildings of a nascent Tel Aviv. We heard about the trials and tribulations of pre-State pioneers, and the birth pangs of the current State of Israel. 

The group at Sarona Market in Tel Aviv. The author is pictured far right.
Most interesting of all, we learned about the Israeli healthcare delivery system, with visits to places like the Israel Medical Association Headquarters in Ramat Gan, an organization that represents the doctors of Israel to promote the welfare of its members and patients, and to monitor and promote best practices.      
We traveled north to Nahariya, on the coast, just 6 miles from the Lebanese border, where the wise and thoughtful Christian Arab CEO of its booming JNF-supported Galilee Medical Center reminded us medical professionals of Israel's egalitarian commitment to Arab and Jew, Christian and Muslim, Druze and Heredi. And of the profound mission statement of his hospital, displayed everywhere you looked:       

                                         "Adam, L'Adam, Adam" 

                 (sic)  To every person, as a person, [treated] with humanity.                        

This instantly resonated with every one of us, and quickly became a unifying theme of our mission. The CEO further prodded us that especially in this age of digital aloofness and electronic device-induced disengagement, to stop, and "take the time to look into your patient's eyes ... and always remember that, they need you!" Heartfelt, basic, brilliant. A profound reminder of what ultimately drew us to medicine, and how rejuvenating and rewarding it is to help and to heal.

From there to Safed, the ancient mystical town, high on a hill in the Upper Galilee, for a visit to the Ziv Medical Center, home of Israel's fifth medical school, and a site for Israel's voluntary treatment of Syrian war casualties, a humanitarian service that Israel readily renders, and for which it gets little recognition.  

This was the site of a very emotional meeting of our group with three young Syrian men, all seriously wounded, one having lost his right foot, all saved by the heroic work and skill of a dedicated Israeli medical staff who healed the patients and provided them whatever medical therapies, surgeries, prostheses, rehabilitation, and emotional support necessary to enable their complete recoveries. All pro-bono. All given with care and understanding. All with that same sense of "Adam, L'Adam, Adam." 

We were totally overwhelmed with the experience, nearly broken with the knowledge of such savagery only miles from us over the nearby Syrian border, but fortified by Israel's strength and perseverance in dealing with its brutal enemies, while simultaneously attending to the victims of such incomprehensible barbarity with caring and tenacity. 

Dr. Cohen, left.
Further south, we visited the northern Negev town of Ofakim, and the remarkable and very beautiful JNF-supported rehabilitation community of Aleh Negev located there. 

Here, in this fully contained and self-sufficient residential and therapeutic village for individuals of all ages with severe cognitive and physical disabilities, all medical, physical, and supportive services are lovingly and thoughtfully offered to each individual to try to achieve the best possible outcomes. All in the context of a dedicated and caring community. Innovative approaches everywhere. Directed therapies. Best outcomes, even in the most difficult of circumstances. Again, Arabs, Jews, religious and secular, all striving together. United. No conflicts. A vision of what could be ... already exists today in Israel.

Nothing you read or hear about can give you a full appreciation of what Israel is and means to us and the world. It must be experienced to be understood. It must be felt to be comprehended.  How fortunate are we to be able to live in this Age of Redemption, and to be able to bear witness to the modern miracle of the State of Israel. And how lucky for all of us to be able to support it and embrace it. I hope you will take every opportunity to do so. It will nourish and inspire you. Do it for yourself; Do it for Israel; Do it for what is right in the world; Do it because it is good. And when you do, do it through JNF,  because JNF truly is "Your Voice In Israel."


  1. That was a wonderful trip. Thanks for sharing!
    Jeffrey Friedlander, MD

  2. Thanks for not cutting me out of any pictures Fred. I look very young for a doctor.


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