Rockets and Medicines
By Yoel Donchin MD
It escapes me now if Shimon Peres was serving at the time as Treasury Secretary or Minister of Commerce and Industry. But, in any event, he came to pay a visit to two Tax Officials who suffered serious burns following an incident in which Molotov Cocktails were thrown at them. The two were treated at the Intensive Care Unit of Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem. First arrived the security detail armed with visible ear phones and with guns well hidden under their tailored suits. They found nothing suspicious that could endanger the life of our greatest statesman. As burn wounds present a serious danger of contamination and infection, you must approach the patient’s bed, even if you got the Nobel Prize, clad in a special surgical gown and your face must be covered by a surgeon’s mask.
Mr. Peres approached the patients’ beds and one of the physicians on our staff, tied the gown behind the Minister’s back, and handed him the mask. As Mr. Peres found it difficult to tied the mask the task fell to the doctor, who was very moved by the fact that he was allowed to approach the back of an Israeli Minister and to tie the wires on the Ministerial neck, and all this under the unobservant gaze of the security detail, who found it difficult to watch the injured patients.
This particular doctor was interviewed several times this week on Israeli television. He is currently the Director of the Intensive Care Unit at Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza. His name is Dr. Khalil Al-Nahal and he is a graduate of our Anesthesia Department and the Intensive Care Unit. He was arrested, some time ago, in Gaza for distributing the flyers of a, then small, organization called Hamas. After we vouched for him, he was released. We kept in touch by phone for many years until, for his own safety, the contacts were stopped. Dr. Khalil El-Nahar has no medical equipment, there are not enough beds and he can not actually run an Intensive Care Unit because he has none of the tools required for delivering Intensive Care. This week he said, in Hebrew, in a TV interview “Hevre…Tafsiku!” (“My friends, stop….”).
The tunnels, created in response to the blockade on the Gaza Strip, constitute the main path for bringing equipment and supply to the blockaded population. The organization with which Israel is currently fighting has transported into the Strip dozens of tons of equipment. What was moved through the tunnels, as we currently experience, was equipment designed for killing and destruction, such as bombs, rockets and grenades. Missiles with a range of 30 miles were broken into three parts so that they can be moved through the tunnels and then reassembled and fired at the Zionist enemy. Fuel and Food were also moved through the tunnels, but mostly as private initiatives.
What was not transported through the tunnels, as far as I can tell, was medical equipment. What was never prepared and dug were shelters for holding, and caring for, the wounded. What was not disassembled into three parts, and transported through the tunnels, were respirators and monitoring equipment for Dr. El Nahal’s ICU. Much effort and resources were invested in moving, storing and maintaining tools for killing and destruction. All those were moved and stored in protected storage bins. But the organization that announced that it is ready to confront the Zionist enemy and prepare cemeteries for that enemy did not prepare for its own people any medical response should they find themselves in need of emergency medical attention. They did not build protected Emergency Rooms, protected within a Mosque, This service, apparently, was the responsibility of Israel as the Occupying Power. It is up to Israel to send the medical equipment, and the medications. Iran will provide the rockets and the World will provide medications…
Had they used the tunnels to import computers for their children, text books for the schools, Public Health equipment, beds, sheets, wound dressings, it may have been possible to save some of the victims….
In 1912, in the middle of World War I, Henrietta Szold sent two Public Health nurses to the neglected, and dirty, Jerusalem. These two began an aggressive Public Health campaign. A bit later, despite the very difficult conditions, groups of well equipped doctors arrived. They traveled the long way through Egypt. Gradually, Hadassah took over and created a universal health system that served “every worker”. The myth that Israel was born from the efforts to till the soil and dry the swamps is incomplete. It was the Health enterprise whose fruits we are still enjoying today, that was critical to the creation of Israel. The pre-state defense forces paid from the earliest stages attention t the need to have a sophisticated medical corps. During the worst times the Yishuv made a point to acquire and install first rate medical facilities.
As a physician who can understand what the enemy feels, and as a physician who is not comfortable with all that is done within the framework of “Cast Lead”, I can not understand how you can devote so much the to stock piling rockets, and at the same time totally ignore medical needs.
Perhaps this is the difference between a terror organization and a national liberation movement.