Stars from the American TV drama series "House" paid an unusual visit to Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer yesterday. "House" might be an extremely popular hospital television show, but it is still not clear why three organizations, including the Foreign Ministry, found it necessary to bring its stars to Israel. It might have had something to do with the Tourism Ministry's tour de force, when it brought the Chilean coal miners to the country. Whatever the reasons, the foreign minister flew in "House"'s leading personalities, with the minor exception of the series' main player, Dr. Gregory House. That's the equivalent of bringing everyone from Rambo other than Sylvester Stallone.
The visit's creepy edge was derived from its main venue: It was held in the hospital's training simulation center where interns practice performing operations on dolls and robots. We met the center's founder, the charming Dr. Amitai Ziv, a former combat pilot, as was mentioned more than once. All of the introductions and explanations were handled by Orli Rubin, who is in charge of marketing for this center. I ask her why a medical center really needs a marketing director. She replies, smiling, "Don't ask such questions around the boss."
Dr. Ziv points to a life-like doll and explains: "This is a digital doll; she sings, speaks and bleeds; she's a real Israeli."
"I don't feel very good," moans a sick robot, whose words are dubbed by an actor positioned in an adjoining room, as Dr. Ziv plucks away apathetically at the robot's fake flesh.
A surgeon enters the scene, holding a simulated scalpel, and works on the wretched doll's liver. "Get the liver," yells an excited video photographer. I feel as though I'm about to faint. I'm sensitive to such things, but I try to keep my composure. What would it look like, were I to faint over a plastic doll?
"Ravid, buddy, make a hole in the liver," Ziv asks the surgeon. Another group enters this virtual operating theater, a few businessmen from some mysterious investment company. The well-dressed, stiff executive who heads the group is also a former combat pilot. Amitai reminisces about his days training with Ron Arad, the navigator who later disappeared; in this flight of memories, nobody pays attention to the doll's liver.
We head back to the medical center's entrance. The "House" stars are supposed to come. But, alas, there's a crisis: the media is asked, politely, to hide somewhere upstairs. "They don't want journalists around; you know how it is, Hollywood people are sensitive," somebody explains. We trudge upstairs, dejectedly. "This is as close as I'll get to Hollywood," says one medical dietitian. I ask her what to do when you feel tired after eating bread. The question bores her; she asks that I go downstairs with her, and promises an answer on the way. That brings us close to the "House" stars!
"How did you make it down here," the marketing director asks, in a quasi-censorious tone. It looks as though "House" actress Lisa Edelstein has a thing for Dr. Ziv. As he continues with his lecture, she gapes at him, eyes twinkling.
I chatter with one of the surgeons in the simulation center about the doctors strike. "In my opinion, they don't have the courage to go ahead with it," he opines, and adds that "We also do simulations of strikes." Once again, the simulation staff people try to expel the journalists who have infiltrated the room. Why they try is a mystery: This is an event that has no importance, other than media coverage. Now some of the staff perform a replay of a scene from the series' sixth season. The surgeon-performer speaks English with a thick Israeli accent. In the end, the operation is a success: the doll doesn't die. Everyone applauds. Edelstein, the beautiful actress, tries to pull closer to Dr. Ziv, the former combat pilot. He keeps an apathetic demeanor. That's how it is with hospital shows - there's always drama.
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