The children given life in the midst of war

Published on Wednesday, 21 November 2012 by Webmaster

The children given life in the midst of war
Mohamed Ashgar is bored. The 11-year-old, who suffers from rheumatic heart disease, has been at Wolfson Medical Center in Holon for a week waiting for surgery, but it was delayed because of poor blood test results. Now he just wants to have the operation and get back home quickly to his parents and his four brothers and sisters. His dream when he is finally well again – to go back to school. Ill health has kept him out of class for over a year already.

Sitting on the end of his bed in hospital pajamas, Mohamed has a cheeky face and a sweet, wide grin. He tells ISRAEL21c that he’d like to be prime minister when he grows up – maybe. It’s all so completely normal, except for one thing: Mohamed is from Betlahia in Gaza, and his operation is taking place in Israel in the midst of a bitter and dangerous conflict that has seen both sides bombing each other continually for seven days.

On Sunday, Mohamed and his grandfather Dahud, 58, who accompanied him into Israel, were in the hospital when a siren went off. They and the other children on the ward – many of them crying and scared — were hurried to the shelter, a room at the end of the corridor that doubles as a nurses' cupboard with boxes of stationery and spare pajamas on the shelves.

The missile from Gaza was intercepted by the Iron Dome, but fragments of it fell a few meters from the hospital, causing a car to burst into flames. Another part of the shell was later found inside the hospital.

Mohamed is in Israel thanks to the Israeli charity Save a Child's Heart (SACH), a non-profit organization based at Wolfson that provides children from developing countries, often those ravaged by war, with heart surgery and follow-up care.

He's not the only child at the clinic from Gaza right now. There are also two baby girls – Remas, and Leen, who has Down syndrome — and a six-year-old boy, Salah, who arrived with his mother on Sunday during the siren. In the midst of some of the fiercest fighting, they managed to come by car from Khan Yunis to Gaza City, and then by ambulance to the Erez crossing, where they were met by Israelis and brought to Wolfson.

There are Palestinians from the West Bank too, including six-month-old Losen, who was in surgery when the sirens went off. Her father, Ahmad Faygan, 30, a municipality worker from Tul Karem, said the only thing he could think about as the sirens blared was whether the surgeons would abandon his daughter to take to the shelters. They didn't.

There are five Iraqi children, and 18 others from Kosovo, Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania and Zanzibar – all mixed in together.

"From outside it might look strange, but here it's routine," says Dr. Sion Houri, head of the pediatric intensive care unit at Wolfson. "It's Middle East logic: At the same time we are bombing each other, a mother comes with her son from Gaza for surgery. Missiles are falling, but we carry on as usual. For us it's normal to be so abnormal.

"We aren't political. We don't belong to the left or the right, we're just a group of physicians," he adds. "You can't be mad at a child. We know for sure that we have treated children whose parents were in Hamas. We don't care. The only color we don't tolerate is blue, because it means there isn't enough oxygen in the blood."

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