“Nothing is more noble than the work of these physicians, who have elicited the height of their humanity,” said Knesset member (Labor) and former Prime Minister Shimon Peres at Hadassah Medical Center in Ein Kerem. Peres recently visited both Jewish and Palestinian children in the Bloomberg Mother and Child Center, but the focus of his visit was to study the medical services paid for by Italy’s Tuscany Regional Council through his own Peres Center for Peace.
Every week, as many as six Palestinian babies with severe congenital heart defects undergo lifesaving surgery at Hadassah Hospital under this program. Most are newborns, but the Palestinian teenager from Hebron with whom Mr. Peres chatted in the Hadassah Hospital hallway had also recently undergone corrective heart surgery for a condition diagnosed when he was only 25 days old. “Now I can finally play a whole game of soccer with my friends,” he told Mr. Peres through a translator.
Hadassah Medical Organization Director General Shlomo Mor-Yosef invited Peres to come to Hadassah for “a strong dose of satisfaction.”
“You’re accomplishing something big,” said Prof. Mor-Yosef. “You are saving lives everyday. Without this treatment, these children would die. Over these last years, we’ve seen the misery and sickness in the West Bank and were determined that any avenues of treatment in Hadassah Medical Organization, with its cutting edge medical treatment, would be made available. You have provided the resources.”
Most of the tiny heart patients are diagnosed by Dr. Muhmad Nashashibi, a pediatric cardiologist at Mukassad Hospital who consults throughout the West Bank. At Hadassah Medical Center the team is headed by heart surgeons Eli Milgalter and Bashir Marzooka, and cardiologist Azaria Rein. “We’re very close friends now, and patients all have our cell phone numbers,” said Prof. Milgalter. “Before this program, a child could be five kilometers away and unable to receive this surgery.”
“It is extraordinary to see Israelis and Palestinians working together,” said Councillor of the President of the Tuscany Regional Government Massimo Toschi who arrived for the visit.
Over a million dollars have been invested in this project so far to treat 322 children. Initially, children and their families flew to Tuscany for care, but the distance from home and need for long term follow-up made this project prohibitive. The total care costs at Hadassah Medical Center for one patient are less than $7,000.
“Leadership is about a dream,” said former National President Marlene Post, who represented the hospital’s sponsors, Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America. “I hope we can set an example here that will be a model for the whole world.”
Peres praised Hadassah for its humanistic ideals and for fully backing medical bridges for peace. “I’m happy to be married to Hadassah,” he said.
Pediatric oncologist Michael Weintraub reported to Peres and Toschi on another program under the aegis of the Peres Center for Peace: a training program for pediatric oncologists to potentially treat the150 new cases of cancer in children