Thursday, January 15, 2009

Day 2- From Rabbi Gelman

Today was an amazing day and the final day of the JNF National rabbinic Mission to Israel.
We visited Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva today. Soroka serves as the main trauma center for wounded soldiers fighting in Gaza. The hospital has been turned into a command center in order to deal with increased number of patients. A situation room has been set up and the heliport is staffed and supplied with numerous trauma stretchers.. Having said that, it is important to note that there have been, relatively speaking, few casualties from this war. Many of the Israelis we spoke to attributed that to the excellent preparation and tactics exercised by the IDF.

We learned how a war affects a major medical center. In the one hand, all hospital personal are prohibited from being further than 30 minutes from the hospital. On the other hand, since schools were closed many hospital staff were unable to come to work for lack of child care. Add to that the fact that many doctors have been called for reserve duty and you have a very complex staffing crisis. To deal with the child care problem the hospital arranged for on site child care.
Some of the other difficulties included the need to move an entire maternity unit as it was not in a missile safe building. Additionally 8 operating theaters had to be closed for the same reason.
After a briefing from the Deputy Director of the Hospital our delegation split into three groups so we could maximize the number of wounded we could visit. The group I visited with went to see the family of Lee'el Cohen who suffered a serious head and brain injury in Gaza last week. We prayed together and spoke about Lee'el and his wife. Lee'el's father requested that we lead our congregation in prayer for Lee'el , the other wounded soldiers as well as all the soldiers of the IDF.

Lee'el has been married for 14 months. His family is praying that he will soon recover and continue building his family. His father called this struggle only and " intermission" in Lee'els plans. We explained that our delegation came as representatives of the American Jewis community so soldiers like Lee'el would know that they are supported and loved by Am Yisrael. We explained that we were only representatives of our communities and in reality there thousands of Jewish families represented in that room. Although It is hard to believe, Lee'els father told us that our presence warmed his heart and gave them added strength to carry on.
There was a constant flow of uniformed young men and women coming to visit Lee'els family. They were all members of his Golani Brigade unit. I have reached a point where these fighting men and women look like children to me.
Lee'els father constantly spoke of God, together with the doctors, who he called angels in white coats, who would hopefully heal his son.

For me, this was the most powerful part of the trip. To spend time with a family that is suffering so much anxiety and uncertainty, but who at the same time handle themselves with such poise and express such deep faith is an unbelievably moving experience.

Time to say good night.

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