Israel's humanitarian response to "Death to Israel"

Published on Monday, 19 August 2013 by Marina Rozhansky

 Israel's humanitarian response to
Medical cooperation exists between Israel and the two Arab states with which it has signed peace treaties - Egypt and Jordan - but also with other Arab countries that have developed a special relationship with Israel, despite the absence of peace treaties.
 
By Shaul Menashe, former Voice of Israel commentator on Arab affairs

Improving Women's Health is the title of a book published in Israel by Prof. Joseph Schenker, senior gynecologist at the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem.

Professor Schenker stresses the importance of relations and cooperation between medical institutions in various countries in order to develop the professional level of scientific medicine. The 620-page book includes a chapter devoted to the subject of medical cooperation between Israel and the Arab states as well as the medical treatment received by the citizens of Arab states in Israel over the years. Medical cooperation exists between Israel and the two Arab states with which it has signed peace treaties - Egypt and Jordan - but also with other Arab countries that have developed a special relationship with Israel, despite the absence of peace treaties. There are also Palestinian doctors who are being trained at Hadassah in order to enable them to treat seriously ill patients at their local hospitals.

Early medical relations with Egypt

In 1978, with the opening of peace negotiations at Camp David between President Anwar Sadat and Prime Minister Menachem Begin, Professor Schenker received an invitation to participate in a conference organized by the World Health Organization in Cairo, under the auspices of the First Lady of Egypt Jehan Sadat, to discuss pre-eclampsia. He was invited by Professor Maher Mehran, head of the gynecology department at Ain Shams University in Cairo. This was before the signing of the peace treaty. Professor Schenker was invited to deliver a lecture about the effect of certain metals on pregnancy.

Also was invited to the conference was the late Professor David Sher, then head of gynecology at the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv. During the conference, relates Professor Schenker, they met with Egyptian doctors specializing in childbirth. Discussions with them touched on professional affairs without raising political issues, except to express the belief that peace would be in the interest of all.

In 1980 Professor Schenker was invited to another conference in Cairo on the effect of high blood pressure on pregnant women, invited by Professor Muhammad Sawar of Ain Shams University. Schenker also documented his professional ties with Professor Mohamed Fathalla, a gynecologist at Assiut University.

Lebanon

Acquaintances between Lebanese and Israeli doctors began in the 1940's, when many medical students in the region studied at the American University and the French University in Beirut.

During the 1982 Lebanon war Joseph Schenker served as a reserve doctor with Israeli troops who entered Beirut. He and other doctors identified the doctors and professors at the University of Beirut with whom they had met and exchanged professional views at international conferences.

Gulf states

Throughout the years, women from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States arrived for treatment in Israel hospitals. Many arrived in roundabout ways, via Cyprus, to Israel's international airport, where their passports were not stamped.

In many cases the first contact with patients from Arab countries was made thanks to Ms. Ilana Basri, whose radio program "Doctor behind the microphone" was broadcast on Israeli radio's Arabic service. The program's goal was to provide health services to Arab neighbors and invite them to receive treatment in Israel and Ilana Basri became known as the "white angel on the air waves".

The program gained unrivaled popularity in the Arab countries. Listeners would mail Basri information on their health conditions through a mailbox in Geneva. Ilana translated their letters into Hebrew and forwarded them to various doctors according to specialty, and the doctors' responses were broadcast twice a week. In some cases, patients were invited to come to Israel for treatment, among them well-known women in the Arab world. One who underwent a successful operation at Hadassah in Jerusalem in 1979, the year of the Islamic revolution in Iran, was a cousin of the Ayatollah Khomeini. While the Iranian extremists called for "death to Israel", Israel's response was "Save the life of your neighbor."

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