Seeds of Peace

I was exposed to the work of Save a Child’s Heart at a very young age. My parents, great supporters of the organization, made sure that I understood the importance of Save a Child’s Heart’s purpose and knew about all of its incredible accomplishments. Because of this, I had always known that one day I would be involved.

Now, after finishing a four-month internship, I can look back happily at a period in my life that was both satisfying and powerful, filled with the smiles and laughter of children getting better.

I would like to concentrate on a specific part of my time at Save a Child’s Heart: a side of the organization that showed me the greatness of humanity, and a side that proves, more than anything, that Save a Child’s Heart believes that all of us are citizens of the same world, and all of us deserve equal medical treatment regardless of religion or nationality.

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Once a week, I got the honor of visiting the Intensive Care Unit and the children’s ward at Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, Israel. Next to the hospitalized Israeli children lay Palestinian children from the West Bank and Gaza. Just like the Israeli patients, the Palestinian children were either waiting for surgery or recovering from one.

During my visits, I got the opportunity to interview those Palestinian families. Since I can not speak any Arabic, and they often speak neither English nor Hebrew, I was accompanied by a translator from an Arabic-speaking city in Israel.

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During my first visit to the hospital, I immediately experienced the difficulties faced by the Palestinians. One of the grandmothers, over the age of 70, was stumbling while walking through the ward. When asking her if she is okay, she slightly pulled up her Burka from the floor, uncovering her feet. The strip of one of her sandals ripped, making it impossible for her to walk around normally. The translator explained to me that many families come to the free Palestinian clinics held by Save a Child’s Heart on Tuesdays not expecting that their child will have to undergo urgent surgery and stay in the hospital for weeks. What this means is that they sometimes arrive without all of the clothes and things they would want to have with them.

At the end of my first visit, I felt like I couldn’t walk out of the hospital without buying this grandmother another pair of sandals. Together with the translator, we went to a shop in the hospital and bought a comfortable pair of sandals. This may be an “easy” problem to fix, but it emphasized to me that aside from the political complexity, the families of sick children also face a lot of logistical problems.

During my next visits to the hospital, I met a lot of children and got a look at their lives, thanks to the stories told by them and their caregivers. Some children were shy at first, but soon enough turned into happy and active children. Additionally, their caregivers were very open with me, smiling and sharing stories, despite our differences in nationality and religion. For a moment we all forgot about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

Naturally, some stories affected me more than others. I won’t forget how a father from Gaza once told me how his 6 years old child kept asking him how it’s possible that Israeli people are helping him. The same father told me how sad he is to see that his child is growing up surrounded by people hating Israel. He said he keeps an open and honest dialogue with his son, showing him both sides of the conflict. Another grandmother looked me in the eyes while holding her baby grandson, and told me that her only wish is for him to live a healthy life in peace with Israel.

Of course, you can’t miss the discomfort in the eyes of the Palestinian families. Ultimately, they are entering foreign territory and asking for help for their sick children who might not survive without life-saving treatment. Alongside this discomfort, however, I see hope and gratitude.

I personally couldn’t agree more with something the organization’s lead surgeon Dr. Lior Sasson said: “…treating a child with heart disease is like planting a seed of peace”.

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