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If you haven't managed to grow old, it will happen to you. The stage of old age doesn't always work out well. There is a strange quality to old age and it creeps up on you all of a sudden. It always amazes you. It is totally inappropriate, and it comes early. And if you have a premature grandson or granddaughter, you'd better pray there is a free incubator at the hospital.

On Sunday I visited Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv. Pains that people my age get drove me to the hospital, and I hadn't been there for a long time. I wondered the halls at the sight of doctors and nurses scurrying around, and tried to make sense of it all and figure out who was just after a shift, who hadn't had a wink of sleep all night, who was too tired to withstand the work by himself and who would manage to recuperate by the next night shift in another week.

This writer has again been afflicted by a conflict of interests and not only as a patient being treated by a range of specialists, but also as a family man. My comfortable family has a lot of doctors, including a son and the wife of another son, my daughter-in-law and a father-in-law professor who passed away this year, as well as a brother-in-law who is on the way to retirement, and that's not all.

These talented individuals chose medicine not just as a profession, but rather mainly as a calling, if you pardon the expression. By virtue of their outstanding abilities, based upon which they were admitted to medical school, they could have chosen any occupation they wanted, and perhaps, who knows, could have joined the ranks of the top salary earners in major corporations, raking in NIS 50,000 a day. But they didn't want to be traded on the stock exchange.

A strike is the last thing they would want unless they are forced to strike. When they see patients in need of urgent treatment and there is no suitable facility at that hospital for these sick people, they understand they have no alternative, that the strike is necessary to save lives.

And when doctors see their pay slips at the end of the month, they feel like they are not being compensated for their labors, that they are being degraded and should at least be compensated for the effort.

Any patient who has seen doctors at work would certainly empathize with their plight and support them in the battle they are waging.

They haven't gone on strike for 10 years and have been engaged in futile negotiations for nearly a year. They cannot be accused of rashness, but if they reconcile with a continuation of their current situation, they would rightly come in for criticism for irresponsibility out of too much of a sense of responsibility.

This morning, when you can't undergo an MRI or CAT scan or have a heart catheterization or undergo dialysis, don't hold it against your doctors, who are only engaged in preventative medicine for the system itself, using the only language the government understands.