Please help Rawa’a, 14, of Gaza, who needs a lifesaving cardiac catheterization

Rawa'a Bakhit, 14, of Gaza, desperately needs a cardiac catherization to save her life. (Courtesy of the Bakhit family)
Rawa'a Bakhit, 14, of Gaza, desperately needs a cardiac catherization to save her life. (Courtesy of the Bakhit family)

I don’t know much about Rawa’a Bakhit, a 14-year-old young woman from Gaza. I don’t know what kind of music she likes, what are her favorite foods, what are her cherished hobbies, whom she loves most in the world. I don’t know what she wants to be when she grows up.

But I do know this: Rawa’a was born with a congenital heart defect called Tetralogy of Fallot (TOF) and Major aortopulmonary collateral arteries (MAPCAs). In the past, she was operated on at Hadassah Medical Center at Ein Kerem, on the outskirts of Jerusalem. This serious condition cannot be treated in Gaza, so Rawa’a desperately needs a cardiac catheterization in the next two months. If not, her life will be in grave danger.

“This is truly an urgent case,” said Dr. Ibrahim Abu Zahirah of Hebron, who operates a clinic in Ramallah and works in the Pediatric Cardiology unit at Hadassah. “It is imperative that we do something soon!”

Dr. Ibrahim Abu Zahirah examines a baby with a congenital heart defect in his clinic in Hebron. Photo courtesy of Katya Chelli

In years past, A Heart for Peace, a French organization, funded these sorts of operations. In 2017, the Palestinian Authority assumed responsibility for the financial backing. But due to a conflict with Israel, the funding has stopped.

This story came to my attention through Katya Chelli, who recently directed a documentary called “Healing Hearts” on the collaboration between Palestinian and Israeli pediatric cardiologists to save Palestinian babies and children born with congenital heart defects. (Here’s a link to previous post I authored on that film.) Chelli’s film shines the light on the little-known activity of Israeli and Palestinian doctors teaming up in the shadow of conflict, working together at Hadassah Medical Center at Ein Kerem to save lives. Palestinians cross checkpoints and the separation barrier with their sick babies and toddlers in tow en route to Hadassah to be operated on by Israeli and Palestinian surgeons at the Department of Pediatric Cardiology. The documentary will be shown on the French TV channel, Planète +, with the aim of selling it far and wide.

Every year, 300 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are born with cardiac malformations. Chelli’s relationship with the doctors connected her to the story of Rawa’a, and thus she set up this GoFundMe campaign in France.

This time, it’s Rawa’a who needs our help. Whatever you can give will, quite literally, be used to help save a life. All donations will go directly to A Heart for Peace; they will transfer them immediately to Hadassah Medical Center. All of the funds will be used for Rawa’a’s surgery, and if there is additional money raised, it can be applied towards critical follow-up care.

The maxim about “saving one life” has been thrown around so many times. But here, you truly have a chance to open your heart and helps heal Rawaa’s.

Even the GoFundMe team was moved to financially support this campaign. What about you?

About the Author
Ruth Ebenstein is an award-winning American-Israeli writer, historian, public speaker, and health/peace activist who loves to laugh a lot--and heartily. She is the author of the forthcoming book, Bosom Buddies: How Breast Cancer Fostered An Unexpected Friendship Across the Israeli-Palestinian Divide. She is also the author of "All of this country is called Jerusalem": a curricular guide about the contemporary rescue operations of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and has written two teleplays for children, Follow that Goblin and Follow that Bunny. Her writing has appeared in the Atlantic, Washington Post, Los Angeles Review of Books, Tablet, WomansDay.com, Good Housekeeping, Triquarterly, CNN.com, USA Today, the Forward, Stars and Stripes, Education Week, Brain, Child, Fathom, and other publications. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
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