An Israeli and an Arab showing the way
Regional, People, 5/13/1998

from ArabicNews.Com

It was the first multiple kidneys transplant ever done in Israel. But that was not the only important thing. The political implication of the surgery was more important where an Arab and a Jew found a way to help each other and give a lesson of co-existence between these two war-shattered nations.

Yousef Tzileg, a 64 year old Jew from West Jerusalem, had suffered of a kidney malfunction. His wife, Vicky, would not donate her kidney for him because it did not match his body. And his Jewish doctors started looking for the matching kidney through a list of potential donators. On the other side of the trench, Yousef Ammash, the 53 year old Arab man from the village of Jisr Al Zarqa south of Haifa, wanted to help his wife, Siham, whose kidney had stopped functioning some time ago. Yet he too could not help her because his kidney did not match hers.

However, doctors who checked the medical files of these four people found out that Arab Yousef's kidney matches Jewish Yousef's while the kidney of Vicky matched Siham's. Contacts were conducted with the two families and the decision was reached: swapping kidneys would not only save two lives but it would also open new horizons for co-existence between Arabs and Jews.

The four people, the two Yousefs and their wives, were admitted on Monday morning to Rabin's Medical Center, formerly Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv where assassinated prime minister of Israel was hospitalized right after he was shot to death by a lone assassin in November 1995. They underwent all medical checks they needed for the transplant, which started on Tuesday morning at around 08:00 and ended by 15:00 hrs. in the afternoon. "We waited outside in the corridor along with relatives of the Jewish family. It was very interesting for all of us to talk about this unique multiple transplant," said Khalil, a relative of Yousef Ammash in a telephone interview from the hospital. He said the whole affair seemed like a puzzle but noted that no major political outcome should be expected. "We have done what we thought was fit to save human lives. I personally did not think of the political implication of the surgery because what we cared for was basically to save the live of Siham. Nothing more. Nothing Less."

Ammash has five children. They all went to the hospital to be close to their parents. All five children wished the best of luck to all patients in the hospital. "Foremost of all, we are all human beings and the most important thing is that this surgery proves to be a success and that co-existence survives between the two peoples," the elderly son told the Hebrew press on Wednesday. A relative who spoke on the phone and presented himself as Ali said the transplant is not likely to change their view of the political process because they see intransigent Benyamin Netanyahu as being the sole responsible for the collapse of the peace process. The timing of the operations which falls as Palestinians mark the 50th anniversary of their exodus and of the creation of Israel was merely coincidental to the Ammash family. "We never thought of this anniversary within the context of the surgery. For us, every day can a little Nakba for us because of the discrimination we face by the Israeli authorities against us," said Ali.

"This is a very special day not only from a medical point of view but also because of the atmosphere of cooperation that existed between the two families and through them between the two peoples. This is the best sample that peace starts between peoples," said Youval, son of Yousef and Vicky. The way he has seen the surgery differs a lot from that relatives of the Arab Yousef saw. For many of them, the transplant would not change much of the political situation. The family lives in Jisr Al Zarqa, a small Arab village on the main Tel Aviv-Haifa road. Like most of the Arab residents of Israel, they feel being discriminated against by the government. Their second class citizens feeling has not changed over the past fifty years and they think that friendly relations between Arabs and Jews never managed to replace the official policy of the government.

Professor Zaki Shapira, director of transplant department, who supervised the four operations, said kidney transplants are held at an average of 60 per year. The new thing in this case, he said, is in the multiple aspect of the operation where four people were operated on at the same time. "The enthusiasm is great when you see the two families helping each other.