It often becomes numbing to read about the numbers of people murdered, taken hostage, or otherwise effected by the recent Hamas-Israeli war. As a Canadian Israeli physician who lived in Israel from 1969-1973, I have very strong connections to the country.
My first visit occurred during the summer of 1965 when I spent a month working at Haifa’s Rambam Hospital doing obstetrics and gynecology (called midwifery). I was studying medicine at Scotland’s University of St. Andrews, having decided to study abroad rather than in my home country of the United States. I wanted to travel and studying in the UK allowed for that with great simplicity via an international association of medical schools.
Towards the end of my stay, I visited Ein Hashofet, a kibbutz in the north. The cousin of my roommate at Rambam wanted me to meet his cousin, Carmela. She was a delightful, beautiful, and spirited Sabra (Israeli born), whose father, an American, help found the kibbutz. We connected but there was not enough time for anything romantic to develop. I was returning to my last year in Medical School, a few days hence after a planned visit to my sister who was a peace corps worker in Tunisia. The Six Day War broke out the day after I arrived in Tunisia and for the first two days, with access to only Arab and English language Egyptian broadcasts I with horror believed that Israel was in the process of being destroyed. When the BBC reports came on air, and by the time I arrived in London on my way back to Scotland, the war was over with the combined Arab armies being vanquished.
A year and a half later I returned to Israel to do a six-month internship in the same department as I worked as a medical student. Towards the end of that visit and just prior to my return to Boston to do my American internship I visited the new kibbutz Nir Oz, where Carmela had moved with her new husband. We visited the border with Egypt and spoke Indian United Nations peacekeepers who were on the border. The laughingly told us that they envied their comrades on the Israeli side of the border who could visit Tel Aviv during their time off. They remarked that Cairo was not as hospitable to them as their friends said that Tel Aviv was, and the night life was far more engaging. We had a good laugh.
Soon after my return to the United States and my internship at Boston University Hospital, I and my then Israeli wife left for Canada as I felt going to Viet Nam made no sense to me. After a year in Montreal, we moved to Israel where I lived for four years.
While reading an article in the Times of Israel about those who have died during the recent Hamas-Israel war I saw the name, Carmela Dan. The description of her struck me painfully, as I realized that she was the Carmela I met in Ein Hashofet, and then Nir Oz, where Hamas terrorists massacred her along with her 12-year-old granddaughter, Noya Dan.
Watching and hearing about the war from friends and relatives, many of whom have family members who have been called up has been heartbreaking enough. But now, it was more personal, the vision and recollection I have Carmela is the person I can only imagine as being murdered along with her ardent Harry Potter fan granddaughter Noya. The news became very personal.