Israel’s enemies love to use lies, distortions and double standards to cast the Jewish state as the source of all evil. The University of Georgia community has gotten a taste of that venom during the annual Israeli Apartheid Week staged by Athens for Justice in Palestine and Christians United for Palestine to teach “how to combat Zionism in your communities.”
We’re certain that several thousand Syrians, however, are thankful every day that the anti-Zionists (usually indistinguishable from anti-Semites) haven’t succeeded in their campaign to wipe Israel off the map. Those Syrians can thank Israeli generosity and basic goodness for saving their lives and the lives of their loved ones.
During a meeting at Young Israel of Toco Hills on Thursday night, March 31, Salman Zarka — an Israeli Druze, a 25-year veteran of the Israel Defense Forces, a physician and the man in charge of Ziv Medical Center in Safed — laid out the difficult choice facing Israel in February 2013 when Syria’s civil war crept ever closer to the border.
For much of the past 40 years, Syria has posed the greatest threat to Israel. Generations of Syrians have been raised to believe that Israelis are devils. Syria has helped arm and prop up Hezbollah. The Syrian fighting since 2011 has occasionally lobbed shells onto northern Israel.
So Israel had every reason to see the shooting a few miles away as a security threat and to respond by driving away any Syrian who came near the border.
Instead, Israel did what any nation in its position should do but few would: It welcomed in all those needing medical care — male and female, young and old, civilian and combatant. More than 2,600 Syrians have received treatment in Israel the past three years with no questions asked and no payments requested.
That’s not slapdash, fix-them-up, ship-them-out care. As Zarka showed during an often harrowing presentation of photos from his hospital, Syrians are receiving the same standard of care as Israelis. When they have recovered, they are free to go home. The Israelis even provide instructions in Arabic and English to help protect the Syrians from retribution at home.
Why does Israel treat sick and wounded Syrians as people in need of help and not as enemies?
Zarka explained the decision from the perspective of a hospital administrator forced to spend his limited resources: It’s a reflection of Jewish principles. It’s a determination to live the lessons learned from the Holocaust. It’s a fulfillment of the medical staff’s oath to provide care when and where it is needed.
Remember that Ziv, which has treated more than 800 Syrians, is the first Israeli hospital led by a Druze. Like hospitals across the country, it has a diverse staff, and, typical of the population in the Galilee, it treats patients of all religions and ethnicities. And just as Israel is often first to respond to disasters in countries from Haiti to Nepal, Israeli doctors and nurses at home couldn’t turn their backs on their neighbors. (If you can’t turn your back on Ziv, consider a donation to the hospital at www.friendszivmedicalcenter.org.)
Those students spreading the lie that Israel is an apartheid nation no doubt would downplay the care Israelis — not Jews or Muslims or Christians, but Israelis — are providing, but they can’t hide the simple truth: Compassion and basic humanity in the face of disaster are the Israeli way.