Tuvia Book
Author, educator, Tour-Guide, artist

Saving Queen

Queen and Moses in Arusha, Tanzania back in 2015 before her life-saving open-heart surgery at SACH in Israel.  Photo: T. Book, 2023
Queen and Moses in Arusha, Tanzania back in 2015 before her life-saving open-heart surgery at SACH in Israel. Photo: T. Book, 2023

This week I closed an emotional circle which began in East Africa eight years ago. I reunited with Queen and her mother, Grace, at the “Save a Child’s Heart” (SACH) children’s home in Holon, Israel.  The last time I saw them was in Arusha, Tanzania and Queen was a very sick child born with a congenital heart defect who was desperately in need of life-saving surgery.

Tuvia with Queen and Grace at the SACH children’s home. Photo (c) T. Book, 2023

This is how the story began:

Eight years ago, I climbed Africa’s highest peak, Mt. Kilimanjaro (19341ft/5895m) in Tanzania together with eighteen climbers from Israel’s “Save a Child’s Heart” (SACH) young leadership team.  We went on this mission to help raise awareness and funds 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 cognizance and appreciation outside Israel for all the good that Israel does for the world.

Summiting Kilimanjaro with the SACH team. Photo (c) T. Book, 2023

SACH, based in the Wolfson Medical Centre in Holon, believes in saving the world, one heart at a time, by offering free pediatric medical care to children from developing countries. According to the mission statement on its website SACH 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.

Being Shabbat-observant has its rewards and challenges. However, being Shabbat-observant in Tanzania helped to save the life of a child.  It all came about in the most unusual of circumstances. I travelled to the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro before Shabbat with one of our groups’ guides, Moses, in order to avoid travelling on Shabbat. That Friday night, after my lone Kabalat Shabbat service, Moses and I started talking. He is an observant Christian from the Masai Tribe. He told me that both of his parents have been on a pilgrimage to Israel and were deeply moved. He asked about the organization we were climbing for.  After I explained to him the mission of SACH, he told me that his niece, Queen, who was then eighteen months old, was born with a congenital heart problem and was on daily medication and had a low life expectancy. He informed me that he understood that his brother and sister-in-law had had her examined by a visiting group of physicians from India and that her condition was operable, but the treatment was prohibitively expensive. I mentioned this to one of our SACH team, Dr Sagi Assa, one of the physicians at SACH in Holon. We invited Moses to come with his sister-in-law, Grace, and Queen after our climb where Dr Assa said he wanted to see the echo and medical charts and examine Queen to see if SACH could be of assistance.

Dr Sagi with Queen, Grace and Moses in Arusha, Tanzania in 2015. Photo (c) T. Book, 2023

Following the successful conclusion of our Kilimanjaro expedition Moses came to our lodge with his family. You can imagine the surprise when Dr Assa opened the envelope of medical documents and saw that the “Indian” doctors were from Israel, and he knew them!  It transpired that Queen had already been checked and indeed deemed a viable candidate for surgery.  Her family were unaware of the fact that all they needed was to procure a passport. Dr Assa spoke to the SACH contacts in Israel to ensure that Grace and Queen would be among the next group from Tanzania to travel to Israel, all expenses paid, for life-saving heart surgery using some of the funds raised by our climb. A chance meeting led to another child being granted the gift of a full life thanks to the wonderful organization of SACH.

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.

In addition to raising funds and galvanizing worldwide awareness of the “Save a Child’s Heart” project, our epic accent also reminded us that 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.

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," was published by Koren this year. To order:
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