Brothers in Illness, at Hadassah

From the hospital tower, one can also see the separation barrier. Is it time to remove the checkpoints?

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I had the privilege of being one of the first patients to stay in the new tower at Hadassah University Hospital in Ein Karem after it got back to work, following the public uproar about the hospital’s future that was sparked by the recent strike there.

Despite the rather unamusing circumstances, I am happy to report that it is operating extraordinarily well. I would add that there is also someone to talk to there, including our "cousins" who live on the other side of the separation barriers, and also representatives of the Haredi sector. At Hadassah, we are all brothers in illness.

I get a real suite, of six-star hotel quality, which I share with a young man from the Shuafat refugee camp. His wife is with him. I cannot help but overhear their conversations, and I am glad I do.

The wife is very concerned, and he calms her: Darling, don’t worry. With God’s help, it will be all right. The conversations – during which they make plans, of course, for how life will go on – lasts for hours.

I talk with my roommate about what we know about what is going on at Hadassah. Most of the people one finds there – whether physicians, cleaning workers, caregivers or patients – come from across the border. One worker I meet apologizes for being late due to delays at checkpoints.

Chica the medical clown tries to cheer up the Haredi men and women. The one who succeeds to cheer me up, however, is my friend Kotchka, aka journalist Danny Rubinstein, an expert on the Palestinian sector. He starts up a conversation with every Palestinian he meets, whether the person is a patient, physician or nurse. He can tell by their accents which part of Israel they come from, whether it is a particular village in the Upper Galilee or a refugee camp founded by the survivors of a village that was wiped out in 1948.

At some point, we hear what "they" have to say about us. The conclusion is that checkpoints are unnecessary.

From all of this, we cannot conclude that we are living in an illusion, yet after I see a cluster of boys and girls going through the corridors to visit relatives, who, I believe, are also excited over the coexistence they see at Hadassah – I get the idea that it might be worthwhile to invest in tours of the place, funded in part by the budget set aside for opposing the boycott of Israel in the international arena. It might even be a good idea to add some of the funds allocated as part of the fight against incitement in the Palestinian Authority.

It seems we can find yet another encouraging sign in the new patients’ tower. Unfortunately, I was hospitalized at Hadassah a few years ago as well. At that time, I wondered why it was that even though many of the patients and staff there are Arabic speakers, the products sold there and the food we were given bore no lists of ingredients or other information in Arabic.

One morning, this time around, I am given yogurt made by the Tnuva dairy company, and the package contains, in Arabic, a list of everything we ought to know about what we were putting into our bodies. Though I am happy to report this, I did have to ask my neighbor how to say “cholesterol” in Arabic. And also the word “hiccup.” He figured it out and told the nurse. I received the appropriate medication in minutes.

We should also take into account that in my position, it is fairly easy to attribute exaggerated political significance to every situation, or find a poetic or macabre aspect in day-to-day activity. For example, as I am being wheeled from an MRI back to my room on the ninth floor, we pass by an elevator. Somebody, perhaps gifted with a sense of humor, had put up posters that had evidently been stolen from one of the stations of Jerusalem’s light rail train, asking passengers not to push and to let others out before getting in.

The general feeling is of traveling on a huge ship, on which we are all passengers and which may save us from going down.

From the top of the tower, I can see white walls on the horizon, and I reflect that maybe the period of Israeli history of starting a settlement by building a tower and a stockade can truly be ended.

From the hospital tower, one can also see the separation barrier. Has the time come to remove all the checkpoints?

If the people in charge of the talks with the Palestinian Authority were to be hospitalized like me, together with the representatives of the other side and their spouses – then maybe they, too, would get a stronger feeling that there is someone to talk to.

As for me, I hope to wake up a few days after the invasion of a foreign substance in my body, perhaps to a new and better reality.

The writer is a film director.

Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem.Credit: Shiran Granot

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