The Future of Dr. A, an Israeli Arab Physician, Is the Future of Israel

When Ashkelon says to fire all its Arab construction workers only because of their origin, the day is coming when the hospitals will dismiss Arab doctors. Some Israelis have wanted to do this for a long time now

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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A doctor at Hadassah Hospital in Ein Karem.
A doctor at Hadassah Hospital in Ein Karem.Credit: Eyal Toueg
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

She hides her name. She wears an ID card around her neck as required but it’s usually stuffed in her pocket, seemingly carelessly. Dr. A., a resident in one of the leading medical centers in the center of the country, goes around her department with an unclear identity. She was accepted for her residency in a highly desirable specialty, under a well-known and widely respected department head, and yet she feels it would be better if she concealed her name.

Her accent doesn’t give up her identity, her beauty and charm are captivating, and she makes her rounds among the beds of the sick, caring for them devotedly and expertly, usually keeping her secret to herself.

Dr. A. should be an all-Israeli physician. She was educated at Jewish schools, her parents live in a wealthy Jewish community, Hebrew is her first language. Her sister is also a resident in a large hospital in central Israel and the two of them share an apartment in old north Tel Aviv. Their little sister is studying medicine at the Technion in Haifa. Their parents did everything so their children would succeed in their country.

When I met her for the first time by chance in the hallway of her department, she burst out crying. It was at the height of Operation Protective Edge and she was dismayed over the scenes from Gaza, torn between her people and her country. Dr. A. never lost her dignity and her identity, and she wants to live here, in her country.

Her chances of doing so are disappearing. It seems to me that she knows it. Meanwhile, she hides her name to save herself the despicable comments of patients and their families. “It’s like the Jews in France,” she says, seemingly to comfort herself, but this comparison is baseless. It is hardly likely that a Jewish doctor in France would have to hide his or her name. At the airport Dr. A. is classified risk level 6, she discovered once, only two levels lower than the most dangerous. Caution, danger, the Israeli doctor, who travels to training and conferences abroad and works in an Israeli hospital, is subjected to a range of humiliations before every takeoff.

Dr. A.’s future is the future of the state. If she cannot live here, there will be no democracy here and no more point. The attitude toward Dr. A. is a litmus test. Few of her people have tried as hard as she has to be Israeli. If she cannot find her place here, then we will know for sure: apartheid. There is no other way to excuse the attitude toward her other than pure racism.

When I told her that her family was here long before mine, a sad smile crossed her face. She wants to be Israeli, but it is doubtful Israel wants her. She is loyal to her country, but is her country loyal to her? The education and healthcare systems were open to her, but gathering clouds are covering her sky and her future.

When Ashkelon says to fire all its Arab construction workers only because of their origin, the day is coming when the hospitals will dismiss Arab doctors. Some Israelis have wanted to do this for a long time now. When the cabinet votes today on the nation-state bill, in its “extreme” version framed by MK Zeev Elkin, or in the “moderate” version of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with the support of Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, the chances of Dr. A. staying here are further reduced.

Few are the Israelis who know what she and others like her go through every single day. Even fewer care. Care? Anybody who wants “Jewish” doesn’t want Dr. A. Dr. A. has a place only in “democratic.” Between these two conflicting values there is neither community nor bridge.

In the recent dark days I found myself thinking about Dr. A. I so wanted to see her proud of her name. I would so much want to know that she can find her place here, in her country and her birthplace.

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