Wounded Syrians Discover Their Compassionate Neighbor, Israel

One of the injured Syrian from the civil war in Syria being transferred to the Ziv Medical Center - photo by Simon Haddad

Israeli hospitals are treating injured Syrians.

Yes, you read that correctly. The two year old civil war between Iranian-backed President Bashir Al-Assad and Sunni rebel groups has- so far- killed over 100,000. Thousands of Syrian refugees have fled into neighboring Turkey and Jordan. Fighting rages just across the border from the Golan Heights in Israel.

Quietly, without fanfare, some of the injured have been cared for by Israeli doctors in Israeli hospitals. There are also reports that a small IDF field hospital has been set up near the border. According to this YNet report, some one hundred wounded Syrians have received medical care in Israel, many at the Ziv Medical Center in Safed.

Initially the wounded were men in their twenties and thirties, but lately the injured are teens and children. Covered with shrapnel, with broken bones and festering wounds, they cross the border, often unable to recall how they came to be injured. One casualty even showed up with a doctors note in Arabic pinned to his shirt.

The Israeli medical staff ask only the questions necessary to provide proper treatment. The patients are returned to Syria as soon as medically possible. Along with safeguarding the health of the injured, the medical personnel are aware of the risks to these patients if it becomes known back home that they were treated in an Israeli hospital.

“Every wounded Syrian is guarded by either an IDF soldier or by a civilian security guard in an attempt to isolate them from speaking with anyone unauthorized to do so who might photograph them or pass on their information to Syria, potentially harming them or their families upon their eventual return to Syria.”

The Israelis have generally kept these humanitarian efforts low profile, not wishing to be seen as aiding either side in the war, and not wanting to trigger an overwhelming influx of injured Syrians.

Which brings me to the question I want to pose. Unlike Egypt and Jordan that have peace treaties with Israel, Syria and Israel remain in a state of war. What does it say about Israel’s culture and values that she treats the injured of her enemy? Even to the point of protecting the identities of the injured so that no harm will come to them when they return home?

What are the values that determine how a country conducts itself? In short: Why does Israel treat the injured of its enemy and Syria use chemical weapons on its own people?

If I had to pinpoint the most significant values difference, it would be the sanctity accorded to each human life. This value undergirds every aspect of life in Israel, from the “Purity of Arms” code of the IDF to the state-of-the-art reproductive technologies which enable couples to bring new life into the world. Did you know that the only Arab bone marrow registry in the world is located…..in Israel? Based at Hadassah Hospital, it was established to save the life of any Arab who needs it. In fact, Arabs throughout the Middle East regularly seek the lifesaving, state-of-the-art care that Hadassah provides.

This values difference has not been lost on some Arabs. Just read the talkbacks for articles on the Syrians being treated in Israeli hospitals. Self-identified Arabs state their hatred of Israel in no-uncertain terms, but give grudging respect for Israel’s humanitarian efforts. Some also note that no Israeli Jew would ever get such treatment if the tables were turned.

I would love to know what these Syrian patients are thinking. How does their experience square with what the have heard about Israel? Anti-Israel, anti-Semitic propaganda is a fact of life in Arab countries (and many other places too). What happens when the lies you have been told collide head-on with reality?

Day after day Israel is maligned in the media and among elites who cannot or will not recognize Israel’s fundamental decency and essential goodness. They cannot or will not recognize that a values gulf exists between Israel and her neighbors.

No doubt some Israelis are questioning the wisdom of using precious medical resources to help Syrians. Others are on the record as saying Israel ought to be doing more.

To me what is remarkable is that Israel is discreetly providing sophisticated, lifesaving medical treatment to injured citizens of a country that has yet to make peace with the Jewish state. A light unto the nations? Without a doubt.

(Photo: Used with permission from an article on Israel21c.org)