Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Israel treating Syrian wounded

From my cousin, a senior British doctor currently visiting Israel:

"Just had a wonderful afternoon with faculty members of new medical school in Northern Israel. Heard all about the Syrian casualties they've been treating - so far >450, only 5 have died despite often terrible injuries. 17% children. Has cost $10million so far which hospital has borne. Patients left at border for IDF to pick up and transport to Ziv hospital in the Israeli town of Tzfat. Patients often leave with equipment (mostly orthopaedic braces etc) that would usually be returned by Israeli patients but just lost in Syria. All go back. All have grown up thinking Israel evil and Jews drink babies' blood. They find compassion and world class care. Anyone reporting this?"

"The Syrian patients don't talk about it as they get punished for going into enemy territory. Most of them are young men - no one asks if they're fighters and which side. And of course no one reporting in the international press. It's an amazing humanitarian effort - saving limbs, skin etc but also delivering babies (that's generated big debates - the women appear knowing they get good care, the babies have birth certificates saying Syrian born in Israel...), and the children come on their own. All extraordinary. Remember the Syrian border is just 19km from Ziv. Damascus just up the road. This is true heroic good stuff."

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Illusion of normal

Many Jerusalem residents complained about the road closures and the waste of resources, but enthusiasts were positively buzzing with excitement at the prospect of race cars once again zooming through the Holy City's historic streets.

After the success of last year's event Formula One was due to return to Jerusalem this summer, only to be cancelled, like so many other summer events, due to the war and the threat of rockets from Gaza.

So perhaps it wasn't just the joy of seeing high powered vehicles close to home that pulled in the punters when the event was rescheduled for the post-war autumn but also the feeling of returning to normality, just another city hosting a sports event, rather than a potential powder keg in a region awash in conflict.

The streets along the route  of the Formula One drive past were lined with a diverse crowd of locals and tourists. For many Muslim families this was a free holiday outing with the whole family off school and work for Eid al Adha, while for many Jewish yeshiva students it was a fun way to spend their High Holidays vacation.

Despite the summer's tension the atmosphere was festive and excited, people united by the thrilling roar of powerful engines and curiosity at seeing something so foreignly exotic along the streets of Jerusalem.

We couldn't entirely escape this summer's war though. My older boy, so excited to see his beloved Formula One again, had changed. Last time around he relished the sound of the engines, so loud you could feel it thrumming through your body as the cars whizzed by. I remember how he glowed with the rush, the exhilaration from feeling the power of those cars that seemed to fly past us.

This time though we were in for a nasty surprise. Arriving early he was so happy that we found a spot right by the railing, on a stretch of the route from where we could clearly see the vehicles come around a bend followed by a nice long stretch down toward the walls of the Old City.

All was fine until the first car came speeding along, throttle open, engine roaring. My boy started to whimper, hands over his ears, tears springing to his eyes, tugging on my arm, trying to disappear within the folds of my dress. "Ima the noise, that loud noise, it's scary! Ima, it's like a rocket siren, Ima, I'm scared."

PTSD. My kindergartner has PTSD from a war we thank God were only on the very margins of. He saw no destruction, experienced "only" a few sirens, but it was enough to traumatise him so much that even what was one of his greatest pleasures is now a reminder of war.

My other child was fine, happy and curious, eyes bright with the thrill of it all. We clearly couldn't stay here though, so off we went, eventually finding a vantage point higher up, affording us a clear view of the cars but much further away from the noise. My frightened child was still nervous of what was still a pretty loud noise, but now that we were no longer right on top of the engines he was able to relax enough to enjoy watching his favourite cars.

The pure innocent joy of it all though was gone for him, even if in the end he liked having the chance to see "his" Formula One vehicles up close. The fear of the noise was still there, niggling, preventing him from just relaxing and melting in to the moment the way he had last time. Right there and then I felt my heart shattering in to a million pieces.