Tuvia Book
Tuvia Book
Author, educator, Tour-Guide, artist

Saving Esther’s Heart at SACH

A few days ago eighteen-year-old Esther Samuel, an orphan from Arusha, Tanzania, was the recipient of a second successful life-saving heart surgery at the hands of the wonderful team of doctors and nurses from Save A Child’s Heart (SACH) at the Wolfson Medical Centre in Holon, Israel. I met Esther for the first time six years ago in East Africa having spent almost two weeks with a team of medical personal and climbers from Israel’s “Save a Child’s Heart”(SACH) young leadership team (www.saveachildsheart.org).  I was honoured to witness first-hand the ability of Israel to affect the world for good.


Our Jewish state knows how to rally around now and always.  Today more than ever before we have among us worldwide circles of aid and assistance.  It does not matter where you are or what language you speak, we all grew up on a set of common values.  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.  The State of Israel is totally dedicated to the idea that every person deserves the best medical treatment available; regardless of their nationality, religion, colour or gender.

Back in 2009 Esther, an eight-year-old Christian orphan from the Massai tribe in Tanzania, became the twenty-five hundredth patient of Save a Child’s Heart. Dr Lior Sasson, Director of Pediatric Cardiac Surgery at Wolfson Medical Centre, described Esther’s condition.

Rheumatic fever had damaged her heart and as a result her heart was huge.  She was very limited in even the simplest tasks.  Even walking was difficult from her.

Sister Angelika Wohlenberg, the German born director of the “Little Africa” orphanage in Arusha, Tanzania, where Esther was living, heard about the SACH program from a volunteer who just happened to be riding the same bus as her from Kenya to Tanzania.  Angelika contacted Simon Fisher at SACH who could not help but respond to Sister Angelika that, “God indeed works in mysterious ways,” since he was preparing at the time for SACH first-time charity climb up the Kilimanjaro (9 years after the untimely passing of the founder of SACH, the Late Dr. Ami Cohen) Two days later Simon and Dr.  Dr Godwin Godfrey, who is Tanzanian, and was being trained in Israel for five years to return to his country as his country’s first and only pediatric cardiac surgeon, met with Ester in Moshi a small town at the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro and the hometown of Dr. Godwin and saw she needed urgent life-saving surgery.  They promised to do all they could to help Esther.  Two months later she was in Israel.  Dr Lior Sasson and his team, including Dr Godwin Godfrey operated for hours and reconstructed her damaged heart valve.  It was a successful surgery and Esther was grated a new lease on life.  A popular Swahili saying states, ‘Ni shauri ya Mungu’ (‘It is the will of God.’)

Six years after Esther’s first surgery I was privileged to be on that SACH team that travelled to Tanzania to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro to raise awareness and over $62,000 for SACH to save the lives of children in developing countries by bringing them to Israel, at no cost to the families, for life saving heart surgery.  We pushed our collective physical and mental boundaries in order to be part of the effort to raise cognisance and appreciation outside Israel for all the good that Israel does for the world.

Tuvia and the rest ofTeam SACH on Kilimanjaro. Photo (c). T.Book, 2021

The day before our assent we visited the “Little Africa” orphanage in Arusha. Dr. Sagi Assa, one of the cardiologists who had treated Esther, was among our SACH team who visited the orphanage and had a chance to reconnect with Esther six years after her successful surgery in Israel. We spent many happy hours at the orphanage amongst special people whose poverty is not of the spirit.  The children treated us to a lovely concert.  In one of the songs, “Hallelujah,” sung in both Swahili and English, Esther was the smiling soloist.  In conversation with Dr Assa Esther mentioned how she is motivated to pursue a career in medicine and specialise in paediatrics in order to help other children in need.  Sister Angelika confirmed that Esther is an outstanding student and SACH donours have committed to funding Esther’s education.

Dr Sagi Assa and Esther in 2015 in Arusha, Tanzania. Photo (c) T. Book, 2021

This is one more example of how Israel, with all of its imperfections, sees as part of its purpose looking out for other people.  Many of my friends, both Jewish and non-Jewish, were deeply moved my stories of the SACH mission to Tanzania, and by the images of the Israeli field hospitals and search and rescue teams after any natural disaster in the world, and ask why there is so little awareness and appreciation in the outside world for all the good that Israel does for the world.  Israel will continue to provide aid and assistance to all those who need help, because it is the right thing to do.  It’s in our genes. Together, we will overcome the darkness, and rebuild for a brighter future.



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 was a Senior Editor and Teaching Fellow at the Tikvah Fund. He is a research associate at the Hudson Institute. Tuvia is the author and illustrator the internationally acclaimed Israel education curriculum; "For the Sake of Zion; A Curriculum of Israel Studies" (Fifth edition, Koren 2017), and "Moral Dilemmas of the Modern Israeli Soldier" (Rama, 2011) and has a doctorate in Israel Education. His latest book, "Jewish Journeys, The Second Temple Period to the Bar Kokhba Revolt – 536 BCE-136 CE," will be published by Koren this year.
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