Blog | Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Professionalism in wartime: Arab and Jewish medical staffers caring together

[Editor’s Note: The following is quoted from Tal Kessler, an intern at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and was translated from Hebrew.]

Post-call on the pediatrics ward, Hillel Yaffe Medical Center. The team for most of call was 2 doctors and a nurse, all Muslim Arabs, and a Jewish nurse and intern. The atmosphere was warm and good, despite the general despair evident on everyone’s face, even though the news was open on one of the computers in the background, despite Code Red warnings heard occasionally from the app that a Jewish nurse and an Arab doctor had running. We talked freely about baseless hatred toward both sides. Freedom of expression. The fucked-up situation.

All the while, the Arab team members treated Jewish infants with dedication and a big smile, as Jewish staff treated Arab babies with the same dedication. In the afternoon, when the Ramadan fast was getting harder for one doctor and he asked to rest an hour or two, the Jewish and Arab staff stayed to cover him. These past few days, when 2 interns got called up from the reserves, the entire Arab and Jewish staff worked extra to cover them. Then, when the doctor ordered food for breaking the fast, he asked the Jews on the team if he could order them something to eat too. As they broke their fast, the Jewish staff kept working. Through the night, the entire team worked in full cooperation with smiles and laughter and good humor.

I know everyone has resentments, anger, opinions. And a solution, if there is one, isn’t simple and will require concessions from each side.

But—and call me naïve—a night like this encouraged me, let me dream that 1 day what matters will be the fact that we are above all human beings, and somehow, maybe we can even build something beautiful and positive here together.

Zackary Berger, MD, ACP Member, is a primary care doctor and general internist in the Division of General Internal Medicine at Johns Hopkins. His research interests include doctor-patient communication, bioethics, and systematic reviews. He is also a poet, journalist and translator in Yiddish and English. This post originally appeared at his blog.