Medical community continues to push peace amid Israeli-Arab conflict
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Medical community continues to push peace amid Israeli-Arab conflict

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Dozens of Arab medical personnel at the Rabin Medical Center in Petah Tikva have been traveling to work in buses organized by the hospital for the past week, after racial violence erupted in the country.

“People from the Arab sector were afraid to come to work,” explained Mhana Bishara, the charge nurse in Rabin’s Internal Medicine C department. “There was a lot of fake news on the social networks about Arabs getting attacked in their cars. Women who wear the hijab, especially, are afraid to come alone, especially at night time.”

In the past two weeks, Jewish and Arab rioters have clashed on the streets of some of Israel’s largest and most historic mixed cities, including, unabashedly, attacking drivers in their vehicles.

An Israeli Arab from Tira, Bishara oversees 40 nurses, aides and other support staff. The violence struck shortly before Shabbat and the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, times when more Jews are off and more Arabs are scheduled for shifts. But staff started calling and saying they did not want to come.

“Even people who lived 10 minutes away were really afraid,” he told The Jerusalem Post.

Rabin’s management had a solution: The team quickly organized buses to pick employees up from Arab villages, towns and cities as far as an hour away – from Kafr Kassem, Tira and Wadi Ara, among other places.

The buses run three times a day, before and after each shift. Bishara said that while some staff have started driving again, many continue to take the organized transportation.

“Traveling together really helps,” he said. Though he noted that a Jewish driver was hired who was at first afraid to enter the Arab towns.

“It was not obvious that the management would understand the situation and step up,” he said.

But the fact that it did reiterated what, he said, he already knew: Israel’s hospitals are an oasis of coexistence and “we need to influence what is outside and not let what is outside influence us.”

Bishara’s words are not unique. Many medical professionals and the hospitals they work in have taken action to spread messages of coexistence in these tense times.

“I expect each one of us to act wisely and with restraint, and to leave any opinions, disputes, and emotions outside the medical center campus,” warned Prof. Masad Barhoum, general-director of Galilee Medical Center, in a message last week. “We have been through complex situations in the past, and I am confident that the cultural, religious and linguistic mosaic that makes our medical center so special will enable us to contain, deal with and dispel any emotions, comments or behaviors that may be expressed by any patients.

“We all have a role to play and a valuable mission, and I intend that we fulfill it properly and professionally, while maintaining goodwill, tolerance and fellowship,” he wrote.

The hospital also released a video of its diverse staff, set to the song “Ein Li Eretz Aheret,” which means “I have no other country.” The lyrics state, “I have no other country even if my land is aflame. Just a word in Hebrew pierces my veins and my soul – with a painful body, with a hungry heart, here is my home.”

The medical center video features Arab and Jewish doctors and nurses standing side by side and embracing.

In addition, the 8400 Health Network, which defines itself on its website as “a cross-sector leaders network actualizing the globally disruptive capability of Israel’s HealthTech ecosystem,” released a declaration earlier this week in Hebrew, English and Arabic that states that “In the past year we fought side-by-side against the COVID pandemic and prevailed, together. Now, all of us – Jews, Muslims, Christians, and those of other faiths, must act again together out of equality, respect and true partnership, to restore the peace and personal security for all.

“In the healthcare sector this is already a living and breathing reality,” the declaration continues. “Let us make it so in all areas of life. We are brothers and sisters, after all.”

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