Tuvia Book
Author, educator, Tour-Guide, artist

Saving Children’s Hearts in Israel

The old adage of, “a picture paints a thousand words” is given new meaning by the picture below:


Where:  The Pediatric ICU at the Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, Israel

When: During “Operation Cast Lead.”  The IDF operation in January 2009 that involved a massive military incursion into the Gaza Strip to track down and subdue the sources of terrorist rocket fire into the civilian population in Israel’s south.

Who is in the picture?   On the left, The Palestinian Arab grandmother of a baby from the Gaza strip.   In the middle:  Fatma, an Israeli-Arab student who is a volunteer translator at the hospital.  To the right, yours truly, an Israeli-Jewish Tour Guide.  Just out of the picture: forty participants on an “Amazing Israel” Taglit/Birthright tour of Israel.

What is transpiring?  The grateful grandmother is explaining 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 Wolfson Medical Center for life saving cardiac surgery performed pro bono by a Jewish Surgeon operating on behalf of the “Save a Child’s Heart” organization.  Fatma is translating in Hebrew to me and I am relaying the conversation to my group in English.

The Save a Child’s Heart (SACH) organization, according to the mission statement on its website (www.saveachildsheart.org) 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.

After visiting the Wolfson Medical center my Birthright group then went to volunteer at the recuperation center where the children and their parents or caregivers, mainly hailing from developing or Arab countries, are either preparing for or recuperating from the surgery that will allow them to live normal lives.  Many of my Birthright group 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. I am playing my part by raising awareness of this wonderful organization, which is one of many Israeli organizations 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.

SACH childPost surgery patient ready to enjoy the rest of his life.

Photo: T. Book, (c) 2013

About the Author
Dr. Tuvia Book was born in London and raised in both the UK and South Africa. After making Aliya at the age of 17 and studying in Yeshiva he volunteered for the IDF, where he served in an elite combat unit. Upon his discharge he completed his BA at Bar-Ilan University, as well as certification in graphic design. He then served as the Information Officer at the Israeli Consulate of Philadelphia, while earning a graduate degree in Jewish Studies. Upon his return to Israel, Dr. Book graduated from a course of study with the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, and is a licensed tour guide. Tuvia has been working in the field of Jewish Education, both formal and informal, for many years. He has guided and taught Jewish students and educators from around the English-speaking world for some of Israel’s premier educational institutions and programs. Tuvia has been guiding groups for Birthright Israel since its inception and, in addition, has lectured throughout North America, Australia, Europe and South Africa. Tuvia served as a Shaliach (emissary) for the Jewish Agency for Israel as the Director of Israel and Zionist Education at the Board of Jewish Education of Greater New York (Jewish Education Project). He was a lecturer/educational guide at the Alexander Muss Institute for Israel Education (AMIIE) in Israel for a decade. Tuvia has lectured at both Bar Ilan University and Hebrew University. He is the author (and illustrator) of the internationally acclaimed Zionism curriculum; “For the Sake of Zion; A Curriculum of Israel Education” (fifth edition, 2017, Koren) and is at present working on his next book, a history of the Jewish people. Tuvia has a doctorate in Israel education. His dissertation title is: “Through the Soldiers’ Eyes: Exploring the Influence of a Birthright Mifgash on the Israeli Soldier Participants.”