'Israelis Have Changed, They Hate More and Are More Insular'

This week at the Tel Aviv airport: Two future doctors talk about the obstacles they face in Israel because they studied medicine abroad

Noa Arad and Matan Peri.
Tomer Appelbaum

Noa Arad, 30, from Tel Aviv; Matan Peri, 29, from Givatayim; arriving from Budapest

Hello, can I ask how you spent your time in Budapest?

Noa: We were in med school there for five years, and now we were both there to defend our final theses before a panel of physicians.

Stressful?

Noa: It’s more chill than it sounds.

What are the subjects of your theses?

Noa: Both of ours were on emergency medicine.

Matan: Mine was on ECG [electrocardiography].

Noa: My thesis deals with an algorithm that aims to assess the risk level of a patient who arrives in the ER with chest pains – to determine whether his condition is serious.

Ahead of a future when we’ll have robots instead of doctors?

Noa: No, because it’s wrong to rely only on algorithms. Clinical judgment is very important, but an algorithm allows for maintenance of a permanent standard, so people won’t fall through the cracks. It can also help young, inexperienced doctors.

How did the defense go?

Noa: It was terrific, but we’re happy it’s over.

Matan: We love Budapest, love returning to Israel, love life. Write down: “Heide Bibi” [“heide” is a Ladino word meaning, roughly, “let’s go”].

Done.

Matan: What we don’t like is that doctors who return from abroad aren’t accepted: The state makes problems and doesn’t allow us to integrate into the profession.

In what way?

Matan: The sixth year of medical studies consists completely of clinical rounds, but even though we Israelis want to practice medicine in Israel, we’re asked to pay for it.

I don’t understand.

Noa: Anyone who studies medicine abroad anywhere in the world returns home to do clinical rounds.

Matan: When our colleagues from Norway or Sweden return to their country, they aren’t asked for money. But here, almost all the big hospitals take between 50 and 100 euros a week from students who study abroad – on top of the tuition that the university continues to exact.

Noa: It costs about 7,000 euros a year.

Matan: Just to be a doctor in Israel. And there are hospitals that don’t accept students from abroad, not even for money. They don’t want to hear about us.

Noa: It’s true that it was our choice to study in Hungary, but the state relies on us, because these days more than 50 percent of Israel’s doctors were trained abroad.

So you paid for the rounds?

Matan: We have friends who did, but there are three hospitals that take students from abroad for free: Wolfson [in Rehovot], Hillel Yaffeh [Hadera] and Barzilai [Ashkelon]. But if you live in the center and want a big hospital – you have to pay.

Noa: I appreciate being accepted at Wolfson without paying – it’s not self-evident – and most people there are nice and want to help, so at the personal level, I have no complaints. But at the systemic level it irritates me that we pay and are considered foreigners.

Matan: In both situations, either where we pay and or we don’t, we don’t have an organized program, like students who studied in Israel. We’re like cousins.

Noa: Stepchildren! It was easier to do it in Hungary, but we returned because we want to be part of the Israeli medical system.

Wait – do you mean that in any event you get less comprehensive training than those who studied here?

Matan: Yes.

The state is shooting itself in the foot and isn’t ensuring the level of doctors working under its auspices.

Noa: Yes, and we’ve been in the country since last summer. I also feel the difference between when we left and when we returned here.

What’s the difference?

Noa: The Israelis hate more and are more insular. It’s sad to see what’s happening – right and left, and refugees. Everyone is looking to argue with everyone else. Get off our case, stop meddling and let everyone live his life.

Go for it!

Noa: Liberals also have a problem. Instead of saying, “I have no problem with everyone doing what they want and not interfering with me,” they say, “Everyone can do what they want, but I’m right.” It’s frustrating to see this situation. What does that say about us?

Odelya Zelman, Michel Zelman, Sarit Berkovich, Dubi Berkovich, Anat Zeitouni and Aharon Golan.
Tomer Appelbaum

From left, Odelya Zelman, 42; Michel Zelman, 42; Sarit Berkovich, 48; Dubi Bercovich, 52; Anat Zeitouni 47; Aharon Golan, 47; all from Kadima; flying to Bangkok

Hello, are you all traveling together?

Aharon: Yes. It all started when Anat and I announced that we were going.

Anat: And I already had tickets.

Sarit: And then I googled and saw that the tickets were expensive, so I told her to cancel them and reorder and I would come along, too.

Odelya: And then I said, “You think that Sarit is going to go, and I won’t?” And I didn’t have a shekel!

Where do you all know each other from?

Sarit: We’ve been friends for 10 years, and the ties between us are only getting stronger all the time.

Anat: The gals with the guys, the gals with the gals – partner swapping. (They laugh)

Aharon: She goes with the flow!

Sarit: We just got a message in our WhatsApp group: “What happens in Thailand, stays in Thailand.”

What’s the name of the WhatsApp group?

Sarit: “Inyenei d’yoma” [current affairs].

Anat: There’re always message going back and forth between Dubi and Odelya, and Dubi sometimes annoys Michel.

Sarit: I like this WhatsApp group, because I always get compliments from my husband. But that’s the only place it happens.

Aharon: I’m less active in the group, because I’m busy with my work.

What sort of work do you do?

Aharon: I’m in high tech. Get up at 6:30, start at 7.

Dubi: Don’t be superior!

Dubi, where do you work?

Dubi: At Zara [clothing retailer].

Sarit: He enjoys it. I work in international commerce.

Michel, you’re not saying a word.

Anat: Michel gets hugged and kissed the most.

Odelya: Michel is a care bear.

Michel still hasn’t said a word.

Michel: I’m not a big talker.

Aharon: Give him a beer and everything will be great.

How long are you all going away for?

Odelya: Two weeks.

And what about the children?

Anat: They are all grown up.

Aharon: As far as they’re concerned, we could go away for two months. “Empty house,” they call it.

Dubi: What’s Sarit worried about on the trip? Not about the kid – about the dog and the cats.

Sarit: The cat – she may pack up and leave.

For Tel Aviv?

Sarit: Why? There are pubs in Kadima, thank heaven. But the truth is that when we came there from Ra’anana, it was a shock.

Odelya: Kadima is amazing. The quiet, the people. We can leave the house open all the time, we don’t use keys, we don’t lock the doors. Come to Kadima – it’s hard to find a house, but we’ll help you out.

I prefer Thailand. What’s the plan for your trip?

Dubi: We’re pretty much organized.

Sarit: Look, here’s the itinerary.

Wow, an organized list!

Odelya: Anat and Sarit are responsible people. I only had one condition: Give me a few days on the beach.

Anat: We took a hotel on the beach that cost twice what we wanted – all for Odelya.

Odelya: I gave her a credit card and told her, go for it. I’m waiting for the sea and the massage. Before that there’s a week of treks.

Are you excited?

Aharon: What’s there to be excited about? We’ll go, we’ll come back.

Sarit: What’s amazing about this trip is that Aharon is going to be there the whole time. We’re used to him going to sleep at 10 P.M. while we all talk until 2 A.M. But Anat has plans.

Aharon: On trips, I’m a night butterfly.

Odelya: Moth, you mean.

Aharon: Instead of sitting in the lounge, I’m sitting here with all of you.

Dubi: Don’t be superior.

Sarit: Next trip – Norway.