Man of the Year

Prof. Bernardo Vidne: 'I saved many patients in my life, in Gaza too. I would treat terrorists and their families today too. My personal tragedy must not influence me as a doctor.'

Flash 90

This column follows tradition, and today too, on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, it will pick the man of the year. Seven times he has chosen carefully, and this will be his eighth time. Now I am going over the list of my past choices and have no reason for regret: All of them met the test of time and place.

It is always possible to take the easy road, and to once again meet up with Netanyahu and Lieberman, with Bennett and Lapid, and to affix their seal on 5774. And near its end, we have run into a particularly despicable character: He never will forgive the members of Kibbutz Nahal Oz for their attitude toward the settlers of Gush Katif in their most difficult hour, yet regardless will still help them a little. He is called Yair Shamir , and he is also numbered among the ministers.

It is always possible to choose one of all these, or all of them as one, and the presumption is that the opinion piece writers will do so with an in-depth analysis. But how will your outgoing year look under their sign, and what tidings does the new year bring you while they are all still with us? Not by accident will the honey try to overcome the bitter taste and leave us with a taste of hope; this column will try, too.

After all, they complain to us endlessly that we do not emphasize the positive in our nation: Not everything here is bad, there is good mostly, and why not expose it for a change? So here goes, we are changing our tradition now: On the eve of Rosh Hashanah 5775 we will remove the covering hiding our beautiful faces.

Two months ago, at the end of the black July, a friend and former adviser called me, Abdul Halim Zoabi from the village of Nin near Afula. He had a request for me, after 30 years of friendship without any requests: You must come with us to visit Prof. Vidne. His grandson Omer was killed in Khan Yunis.

What do these “Zoabis” have to do with Savyon immersed in its mourning? And then I remembered that many years ago Vidne saved the life of Haya the baby, who is today 22 years old and studying communications. And after a few months he operated on her cousin, Omar, who was also born with a heart defect.

“We will not forgive ourselves if we do not console this man who gave our family life,” said Abed on the phone. He may not have explained, but it was not so hard to understand: Without me they were afraid to leave their home and travel to the center of the country, since those were days of hatred and fear and harassment. Imagine that you were stopped on the way, alone, and asked to identify yourselves: Four in one car. Are you relatives of that Zoabi – what’s her name? – the policemen would interrogate you, and immediately report over the radio: They are telling us they came to console a Jewish grandfather; really funny, those Arabs. Now we will all drive down to the station, Yalla, quickly!

The four of them picked me up on the way to Prof. Bernardo Vidne’s home – the greatest of doctors, the finest of human beings: Haya and her father, Omar and his father, who is a fervent Muslim and his heavily bearded visage testifies to it. The professor was very excited to see them: “I know it is not easy for you to come at a time like this,” he said. And after that he moved the collars of the two “children” aside a bit and recognized on their chests the signature of his scalpel.

And as opposed to a number of his disgusting colleagues, he added: “I saved many patients in my life, in Gaza too. I would treat terrorists and their families today too. My personal tragedy must not influence me as a doctor. They are idiots and we are idiots, and in our family there is no hatred and no revenge.”

Were the hands of the cardiac surgeon shaking? Certainly, but because of the memory and not because of the anger.

Vidne is the man of this cursed year; and not only mine, and not just for one year, I fear. He is the human representative of the superhuman of the generation of the grandparents. It is our generation which continues the story of the Binding of Isaac that will once again be told tomorrow in the synagogues. And where is the lamb for sacrifice, and where is God to call out?

They hugged and parted. On the way back, Abed tried to hide – but we saw. He cried over Omer who is no more, for his mother and father, his grandmother and grandfather, and for us.