Sholom Rothman
Never Stop Growing

Peace from the Bottom Up

We Jews who reside in Israel, have long been confronted with enemies outside our borders who wish to destroy us, and by terrorists who live among us who occasionally strive to make our daily lives unbearable. It is therefore understandable that those who view our lives from a distance may have developed an inaccurate view of exactly how we do live our daily lives vis-a-vis the Arab population with which we live side by side. These outsiders sometimes expect us to be going through a daily battle with a hostile population, or at best that we have no interaction with our neighbors whom they assume inwardly seethe at our existence here.
This past Shabbat my wife and I had a completely different experience in our encounters with the Arab residents of Jerusalem with whom we interacted, than those imagined by those not living here, and that experience may come as a surprise to many of those living abroad..
For the past week my wife had been battling a bad cold (most probably caught from my mild one). But as Friday came, it morphed into a different ailment. By the time I returned from synagogue, she had developed a fever, chills, her cough had deepened, and her chest seemed constricted. We decided to visit the Terem emergency clinic two blocks away to get her checked out immediately.
The Terem receptionist greeted us right away, and explained that the clinic’s charge was 300 shekels (about $80), but that we might first want to avail ourselves of the doctor on call until 10:00 pm at the Meuchedet (our HMO) clinic around the corner from Terem. We thanked her for that information (we had no idea that Meuchedet had a doctor available on Shabbat), and we opted to go there first.
The Meuchedut doctor (a young Arab who I neglected to ask for his name), saw us right away, and did a physical checkup to ascertain my wife’s diagnosis. He said that he noticed wheezing in her chest, but that he couldn’t prescribe medication for a possible case of pneumonia without her having a chest X-ray. He said we could have that done at to the main Meuchedet office downtown (about an hours’ walk away), or we could go back to the Terem clinic for the X-ray. I asked him if it was important to take the X-ray immediately, or could we wait 24 hours until after Shabbat. He said that it really was important to do it right away, and we told him we would. After we bundled ourselves up to once again go outside, he came to the door as we were about to exit, and asked if we were indeed going for the X-ray, or were we going to let it slide. I assured him that were going directly to the Terem clinic to have it done, and thanked him for his concern.
We reentered Terem, and within a few minutes, Iris was being checked by an intake doctor for her medical history. He passed us over to an internal doctor who introduced himself as Mahmud (his first name), who did a physical checkup of her condition, and quickly ordered an X-ray and a blood test. A nurse took Iris’ blood, and within five minutes she was escorted in to have her chest X-ray done. As we waited 15 minutes for the radiologist to receive and read the X-ray, Iris was led into a side room by a nurse and received two doses of medication through an inhalation device that helped open her clogged air pathways.
Mahmud came back and informed us that the radiologist had indeed spotted the beginnings of pneumonia. Mahmud printed out two prescriptions for her to take for the next few days, and two more to simultaneously use in a home inhalation system. I asked if it was important to start the medications immediately, or could it wait until after Shabbat. He indicated that it was best to start right way. I wondered where we would get medicine on a Friday night as virtually every store is closed in Jerusalem for Shabbat. He told us the receptionist had information to direct us to open pharmacies.
She indeed told us of one pharmacy open in Beit Safafa (an Arab community about a 45 minute walk away), or one at 9 Rechov Leib Yaffe, in the neighboring community of Arnona, about a 10-15 minute walk away. I was surprised to hear that  a pharmacy was indeed open until midnight on Friday in a Jewish neighborhood, and asked the receptionist if it would fill prescriptions without payment. She didn’t know, but said we we should try. (Terem itself allows for payment after Shabbat). We told her that we would return after Shabbat to take care of our Terem bill. She asked if we were allowed to sign a voucher for our care, but when I said that we really couldn’t, she said that it was okay, and that we had 24 hours to pay the bill.
I took Iris home, and reluctantly picked up a credit card just in case. (I was relieved to be informed a few days later by Rabbi Weiner, an expert in practical Jewish law, that I did nothing wrong and didn’t violate Shabbat in this instance, as Iris’ medical condition overruled the Rabbinical prohibition of payment on Shabbat, if it was necessary to pay). I walked to the pharmacy and all the prescriptions were quickly filled, and I was relieved to be told that I could return after Shabbat and pay the 250 shekel (about $65) fee. I brought them home, Iris started her new healing regimen, and slowly began her recovery.
I did return the next evening to pay my bills at both places. I asked the pharmacist for his name, and was told it was Nadaar. I thanked him profusely for his help. The Terem receptionist was surprised when I asked for her name, and Zinaar was surprised by my gratitude for her and the clinic staff’s assistance, and she said that it was nothing out of the ordinary, and wished my wife a complete recovery.
In fact, EVERY single person that we met that night, be it a doctor, nurse, X-ray technician, pharmacist or receptionist, was an Arab. Every single one of them showed the utmost professionalism, care and concern for Iris’ condition, and gladly contributed to her treatment. There was not the slightest feeling on our part that there was any interaction with us that was tainted by a feeling that it was us vs. them,
We are in the midst of the unveiling of another grandiose plan put forward to solve the century plus conflict between Jew and Arab in our small land. We sincerely hope, but mostly doubt, that this plan will succeed better that the other failures throughout the length of our common struggle.
Perhaps the only way to bring peace is to develop it from the bottom up, to train people on both sides of the divide to treat each other as neighbors rather than as enemies. For one night at least, in one small corner of Jerusalem, we did. Is it too much to hope that one day we all will?
About the Author
I studied in Jerusalem for a year when I was 19 years old, and developed a love for Israel and especially Jerusalem. It took me over 40 years to finally fulfill my life's dream and make Aliyah to Jerusalem. I had been a computer programmer for 37 years, but now, after retirement, study full time in yeshiva, and was granted Semicha two years ago.
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