Two plus years ago I gave my word to my wonderful Israeli friend that I would write about Israel. That I would tell the world the real story. I think I have kept my promise and add some. Those of you who might or often follow my frequent rants against BDS and anti-Israeli activism, must admit that my writing has not only been about Israel, but in defense of Israel. I have exposed the insidious anti-Semite attacks disguised as political social justice, and I have also taken to task today’s one-sided anti-Zionist secular progressive far left liberal media. I have also repeatedly refused to accept the vilification of Israel as the big bad wolf of the Middle East. Despised by so many on the righteous left, this little strip of land heals the world. This is a story about that healing.
In 1995, a group of Israeli doctors and nurses formed an NGO called Save a Child’s Heart (SACH). The objective was to cut through the political quagmire and help Israeli children and children in developing countries to overcome congenital heart defects. It did not happen overnight. Years ago, Israeli children requiring pediatric cardiac care had to be sent abroad because Israel did not have the resources available to assist them. Eventually, Israeli doctors and nurses also travelled abroad to develop their own pediatric cardiac skills urgently required to help these kids. Fast forward to today and to the Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, Israel, where myriad of doctors and nurses have since then treated thousands of children from all over the world. Congenital heart disease is often discovered after birth or later in life and in unexpected ways. Sometimes diagnosed as simple heart murmurs, cardiac conditions in children are insidiously silent and can be fatal. Eight out of every thousand babies are born with a congenital heart disease.
SACH has no political affiliation and bridges care and need across Palestinian-Israeli neighborhoods without strife, questions, or obligations. It is purely humanitarian and it is doing wonders. SACH is also part of the Heart of the Matter Project; a joint outreach program led by Palestinians and Israelis to care for Palestinian Authority children in both Gaza and the West Bank. Since its humble beginnings, SACH has taken care of and examined approximately 5,000 children, the majority of whom were from the Palestinian Authority. Every Tuesday, Shevet Achim, a Christian organization in Jerusalem provides transportation from the Palestinian Authority to the SACH clinic and back.
The 120 SACH team members come from all over the world, caring beyond the Palestinian/Israeli population and reaching out to developing countries across the globe. The organization started out of the dire need for cardiac care in the immediate region. After Israeli doctors went overseas to develop pediatric cardiac skills, they returned and implemented them in Israel. SACH now develops training programs in Israel that allow doctors and nurses to go on surgical and teaching missions to partner countries or where ever they are requested. An ironic fact is that even the ever elusive China requests cardiac medical equipment from Israel. Although Chinese proliferation in technology allows the country to make amazing advances in modern medicine, it does not manufacture the necessary medical equipment. Israel provides it.
50% of all SACH cases are from the Palestinian Authority, Jordan, Iraq, and Morocco. 40% are African, and the rest are from Eastern Europe, Asia, and the Americas. Similar to Doctors Without Borders, SACH doctors travel around the globe diagnosing and treating children. The demand on these travels is overwhelming. Children are diagnosed and selected for immediate surgery and flown to Israel. They are transported free of charge. Volunteers are another integral and important cog in this well oiled wheel. Volunteers fill in the gaps in assistance and support which the non-profit organization would otherwise not be able to afford. From retired medical and other professionals to gardeners and photographers, volunteers help on daily and weekly basis, or whenever they can. A true mission of love. My dearest friend in Haifa happens to be one of these volunteers. She transports a Palestinian Authority child to one of the clinics and back. She was also the one responsible for getting me acquainted with SACH and my decision to write about it. She is the poster child to SACH’s dedication and its blindness to political bias, distrust, and often hate.
Children afflicted with congenital heart disease suffer silently; there are rarely any significant outward signs, I have a special stake in this story because 50 years ago unbeknownst to us, our daughter was born with Pulmonic Stenosis (PS), a pulmonary congenital heart defect that weakens the heart valve. Normally, the right side of the heart pumps blood to the lungs. Children afflicted with PS have a valve disorder. Pressure is inflicted on the right pump chamber of the heart’s right ventricle which makes the heart work harder. Eventually it causes damage to the heart muscle. Unfortunately, 50 years ago, there were no organizations like SACH who would or could help. Children were often diagnosed too late and the disease would have already done its damage. Lack of technology and skills in pediatric congenital heart diseases reduced the treatment to observation and waiting for “something to happen”. Open heart surgery on children was also a remote possibility not probability. Our daughter never saw her seventh birthday.
In November 2018, SACH won the UN Population Award. An irony in itself since the UN has not been particularly friendly toward Israel. But it is inevitable for any one to deny the fact that this organization looks out for the weakest and often the poorest among us. SACH survives through sponsorship and donations. Their motto is true to their mission: We mend hearts, regardless of religion, gender or nationality. In a world where hatred is nurtured through religion, gender, and nationality; SACH and Israel break all barriers and heal everyone’s child. It does not get better than this. Shalom.