This August I will be climbing Africa’s highest peak, Mt. Kilimanjaro (19341ft/5895m) in Tanzania, together with a team from Israel’s “Save a Child’s Heart”(SACH) organisation and helping to raise $40,000 to save the lives of children in Africa. The answer as to why I am going to be pushing my physical and mental boundaries has it routes back in visit I paid together with my “Amazing Israel” Birthright group to the Wolfson Medical Center in Holon.

In the midst of a wave of terrorist missiles from the Gaza strip we were shown a Palestinian baby who had entered Israel with his grandmother after being diagnosed with a congenital heart defect that required immediate surgery to save the baby’s life. The grateful grandmother explained in Arabic how the IDF allowed her and her grandchild to leave the Gaza strip, despite the fact that there was a war going on, and to travel to the Wolfson Medical Center for life-saving cardiac surgery performed pro bono by a Jewish Surgeon (whose parents had fled from Iraq) operating on behalf of the “Save a Child’s Heart” organisation.  Her speech was translated into Hebrew for me by an Israeli-Arab social worker Fatma, and I relayed the conversation to my Birthright group in English. One of the participants took a photo of me, with my Kippah and Fatma with her Hijab standing next to the Palestinian grandmother having a laugh and asked why this face of Israel is so rarely portrayed by the world’s media.

After visiting the Wolfson Medical center my group then went to volunteer at the recuperation center where the children and their parents or caregivers, mainly hailing from developing African or Arab countries, are either preparing for or recuperating from the surgery that will allow them to live normal lives.  Many of my Birthright participants were deeply moved and asked why there is so little awareness and appreciation outside Israel for all the good that Israel does for the world.

SACH child

Post surgery SACH patient from Africa ready to enjoy the rest of his life (Photo (C) 2015, T. Book)

SACH, based in the Wolfson Medical Center, believes in saving the world, one heart at a time, by offering free pediatric medical care to children from developing countries. According to the mission statement on its website ( SACH is,

An Israeli-based international humanitarian project, whose mission is to improve the quality of pediatric cardiac care for children from developing countries who suffer from heart disease and to create centers of competence in these countries. SACH is totally dedicated to the idea that every child deserves the best medical treatment available, regardless of the child’s nationality, religion, colour, gender or financial situation.”

By participating in the Kilimanjaro mission I am playing my part by raising awareness of this wonderful organisation, which is one of many Israeli organisations dedicated to making the world a better place. Israel strives to be a “light unto the nations.”  Daniel Gordis succinctly summed it up when he stated that, in addition to striving for the benefit our own citizens,

“This country has become a country, with all of its imperfections, that sees as part of its purpose as looking out for other people”

My team hopes to raise funds and galvanise worldwide awareness of the “Save a Child’s Heart” project. When we open our hearts to the world and give of ourselves to others we become part of a long tradition of charity and righteousness and leading by personal example part of the Jewish culture of Tikkun Olam.

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