On Oct. 16, I had an appointment at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek hospital. There are many places in which one observes the peaceful and respectful interaction between Jews and Arabs throughout Israel, but none more than in a hospital, and no hospitals more than a Jerusalem hospital.
Reflecting not just the demographic that 20% of Israel’s population are Arab citizens, and in Jerusalem about a third of the population are Arabs, one sees coexistence at every level. There are Arab doctors and nurses treating Jewish patients, and Jewish doctors and nurses treating Arab patients. Jewish and Arab employees serve coffee, work as administrators and clean the floors. Together.
I’ll never forget the scene there the day my youngest son was born. The maternity ward was particularly busy. Rotund women (the mothers of those about to become mothers) were pacing the hall. Jews and Arabs, identifiable by their respective traditional dress. Just coexisting, about to celebrate the arrival of a new baby in their family. Together.
While waiting for my appointment, I heard loud claps of what sounded like thunder outside. I couldn’t see the weather as there were no windows, but I was sure that we have entered the rainy season and Jerusalem was being blessed by a needed rainstorm from heaven.
Until I heard the air raid siren, and an announcement throughout the hospital that everyone needed to get to the bomb shelter. Then I realized it was not a blessing from heaven but a curse from hell, falling from the sky.
We had about 90 seconds to take cover. Jews and Arabs, all going to the same safe room. Together. We’d be protected from the rockets of Hamas’ Islamic terrorists. Just as normal as it is for Jews and Arabs to coexist like this, and seek shelter together, I was mindful of how abnormal the situation actually was.
And yet for the Hamas terrorists, how they did not discriminate between Jews and Arabs in who they would kill or maim. They aim for us, but killing their own is not a problem for them either.
The next day, a stray terrorist rocket hit a Gaza hospital. Initial Hamas “reports” were 500 dead and, of course, that Israel had targeted the hospital. Fortunately, Israel is as careful about not hitting civilian targets unless they are being used as cover by the terrorists, as it is about documenting where each rocket is fired from, and where it is headed or lands.
Israel proved to the world that the rocket that hit Al-Ahli Hospital was not an Israeli rocket, even producing recordings from terrorist leaders confirming this among themselves.
But that inconvenient reality, as well as the inflated death toll 10 times more than it actually was, didn’t seem to matter to much of the world media. Without checking a single fact, they parroted Hamas’ lies and propaganda, making the media culpable as well. Sadly, just as it is normal for Jews and Arabs to coexist peacefully in Israeli hospitals, it is normal for world media to blame Israel even when facts prove the opposite.
While it’s a widely known secret that Hamas and its leaders are firmly entrenched in bunkers under Gaza’s Shifa hospital, both in Israel and among Gazans, and that they have used the hospital as a terror base, even firing at Israeli troops from within the hospital making it a legitimate target, few people in the world care more than Israel for the well-being of the patients in the hospital.
Rather than bombing from the air, in order to save lives of Gazan Arabs in the hospital, Israel has sent in ground troops to defeat the terrorists and rescue the hostages, at risk to their own lives. Even though Israel knows where the terrorists are, getting to them will require massive urban combat and certain terrorist traps not seen before.
In addition to the Hamas entrenchment under the hospital being a public secret, as well as a war crime by making their own civilians human shields, there’s another public secret that highlights Hamas’ evil. Israeli intelligence, corroborated by the four hostages who have been released alive, have verified that in the immediate aftermath of Hamas’ 10/7 rampant massacre and kidnapping, hostages were forced to put on hospital gowns and paraded through Shifa hospital to get to the underground bunkers where they are now also a shield protecting the terrorist leaders.
During my hospital experience, a young woman with a warm smile came to take blood. She apologized in advance for causing me any pain before poking the needle in so gently that I barely felt it.
Before 10/7, I wouldn’t have thought twice about an Arab nurse taking my blood, or anything else. It was all normal, part of the civil mutual respect that exists where Jews and Arabs coexist in Israel. It’s not always perfect, but it is the norm.
Sadly, as much as she caused virtually no discomfort in poking me with a needle, I could not resist my discomfort with her poking me. I don’t like that I feel this way, and I know I am not alone. But sadly, one consequence of the war is the distrust that many Israeli Jews have with and around Arabs, even those that they have known and worked with for years.
It’s not a racist thing, but based on the reality that Gazan Arabs who worked in the Jewish communities that were overrun and attacked on 10/7 actually helped the terrorists map out the communities and the very homes of the victims.
As I left the bomb shelter in Jerusalem on Oct. 16, I was overcome by a powerful thought. What would happen if I, an Israeli Jew, were to arrive at a Palestinian Arab hospital, not necessarily in Gaza, just in Ramallah, Bethlehem or Hebron? Would I be welcomed and cared for as a patient, or would I be lynched, and my death celebrated?
Because the reality is clear, and dangerous, the scenario was silly. The reality is that inside or beneath Al-Ahli Hospital, hit by the terrorists’ rocket the next day, there were probably Jewish hostages hidden, used as human shields, just as under Shifa Hospital. There are probably also bodies of Jewish hostages in the morgue. All waiting for a sickening prisoner exchange, or to be executed as part of Hamas’ psychological terror war.
Too bad nobody in Shifa hospital seems to have any moral qualms about their being used as human shields, or the horrific treatment of the hostages hidden in the hospital, or thinks that Hamas doing so is anything other than normal.
Two people, two hospitals, two radically different perspectives on preserving life. Sadly, all too normal.
Jonathan Feldstein was born and educated in the United States and immigrated to Israel in 2004. He is married and the father of six. Throughout his life and career, he has become a respected bridge between Jews and Christians and serves as president of the Genesis 123 Foundation. He writes regularly on major Christian websites about Israel, shares experiences of living as an Orthodox Jew in Israel and hosts the popular “Inspiration from Zion” podcast. On behalf of the Genesis 123 Foundation, the Israel Emergency Campaign gives a vehicle for millions of Christians around the world the opportunity to do so virtually as well.