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July 4, 2014

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PAGE 12A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JULY 4, 2014 I The children given life in the midst of war Sheila Shalhevet Israeli doctors saved the life of Mohamed Ashgar from Gaza in 2012. Sheila Shalhevet Leeit recovering after lier surgery performed by Save a Child's Heart. Dedicated To Serving Our Jewish Community Car on Central Florida's Exclusively Jewish Funeral Home for Details Regarding: Traditional Jewish Funerals Non-Traditional Services Interstate Shipping Pre-Arranged Funerals (Shalom Assurance Plan) Headstone, ' Grave Markers (Cardinal Memorials) 407-599-1180 640 Lee R d. Orlando, Florida W.E. "Manny" Adams, LFD Samuel P. (Sammy) Goldstein: Executive Director Sheila Shalhevet Losen's operation took place during a missile alert at Wolfson. By Nicky Blackburn This article was written in 2012. (Israe121c)--Mohamed Ashgar is bored. The l 1-year- old," who suffers from rheu- matic heart disease, has been at Wolfson Medical Center in Holon--south of TelAviv--for a week waiting for surgery, but it was delayed because of poor blood test results. Now he just wants to have the operation and get back home quickly to his parents and his four brothers and sisters. His dream when he is finally well again--to go back to school. Ill health has kept him out of class for over a year already. On Sunday, Mohamed and his grandfather Dahud, 58, who accompanied him into Israel, were in the hospital when a siren went off. They and the other children on the ward--many of them crying and scared--were hurried to the shelter, a room at the end of the corridor that doubles as a nurses' cupboard with boxes of stationery and spare pajamas on the shelves. The missile from Gaza was intercepted by the Iron Dome, but fragments of it fell a few meters from the hospital, causing a car to burst into flames. Another part of the shell was later found inside the hospital. Mohamed is in Israel thanks to the Israeli charity Save a Child's Heart (SACH), a non-profit organization based at Wolfson that provides children from developing countries, often those ravaged by war, with heart surgery and follow-up care. He's not the only child at the clinic from Gaza right now. There are also two baby girls--Refnas,and Leen, who has Down syndrome, and a six-year-old boy, Salah, who arrived with his mother on Sunday during the siren. In the midst of some of the fierc- est fighting, they managed to come by car from Khan Yunis to Gaza City, and then by ambulance to the Erez crossing, where they were met by Israelis and brought to Wolfson. There are five Iraqi chil- dren, and 18 others from Kosovo, Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania and Zanzibar--all mixed in together. 'Missiles are falling, but we carry on as usual' SACH is the largest pro- gram of its kind in the world. Aside from bringing children to Israel for lifes.aving surgery, the organization trains physi- cians, goes on missions abroad to operate on kids and has a weekly clinic on Tuesdays for children in Judea and Samaria and Gaza. The 70 to 80 medi- cal staff involved in the pro- gram all work voluntarily. All medical costs for most of the patients are covered by SACH. The organization was con- ceived by U.S. immigrant Dr. Amram Cohen, and founded in 1995 by Cohen and Dr. Sion Houri, now head of the pediatric intensivecare unit at Wolfson. It began with Ethio- pian children and broadened to include children from 44 countries. Cohen died in 2001 in a climbing accident on Mount Kilimanjaro. Some 3,000 children have had surgery at Wolfson through SACH, of which about half are Palestinian, and 70 percent of these from Gaza. SACH also sends Israeli doc- tors to train cardiologists and treat patients in the develop- ing world. In aldltion, SACH personnel at Wolfson train medical practitioners from developing countries--so far, nearly 80 doctors, including about 20 Palestinians--and work intensively with doctors in Tanzania and Ethiopia. There are Palestinians from Judea and Samaria too, including six-month-old Lose.n, who was in surgery when the sirens went off. Her father, Ahmad Faygan, 30, a municipality worker from Tul Karem, said the only thing he could think about as the sirens blared was whether the surgeons would abandon his daughter to take to the shelters: They didn't. Sitting on the end of his bed in hospital pajamas, Mo- hamed has a cheeky face and a sweet, wide grin. He tells ISRAEL21c that he'd like to be prime minister when he grows up--maybe. It's all so completely normal, except for one thing: Mohamed is from Betlahia in Gaza, and his operation is taking place in Israel in the midst of a bitter and dangerous conflict that has seen both sides bombing each other continually for seven days, The goal is to duplicate Israel's own experience, says Houri. "When I was a young doctor, Israeli children were dying because they needed heart surgery that wasn't available in Israel. You don't see that now. We sent physi- cians to train abroad, and had immigrants like Amram coming to Israel with knowl- edge and experience. 'If we managed it, then it's doable for them, too." Does being in a conflict with Gaza make a difference to the staff? "From outside it might look strange, but here it's routine," says Houri, as he walks the wards of the pediatric de- partment greeting patients, parents and nursing staff in a mix of Hebrew, Arabic and English. "It's Middle East logic: At the same time we are bombing each otherl a mother comes with her son from Gaza for surgery. Mis- siles are falling, but we carry I on as usual. For us it's normal to be so abnormal. "We aren't political. We don't belong to the left or the right, we're just a group of physicians," he adds. "You can't be mad at a child. We know for sure that we have treated children whose par- ents were in Hamas. We don't care. The only color we don't tolerate is blue, because it means there isn't enough oxygen in the blood." 'We feel more protected here' For the parents and chil- dren from Gaza right now, it's no doubt asurreal experience. Their leadership is atwarwith Israel, militants are firing hundreds of missiles at Israeli cities and towns, and their own families are sheltering from Israeli retaliation. But here in Israel they are treated warmly and compassionately, and--most important of all-- their children are being given vital surgery. "We are very glad to be here for the operation, butwe really feel for our family back home," says Dahud. "We aren't frightened for ourselves; we're frightened for them in Gaza. We feel more protected here." "We have family in Gaza and we're very much afraid of what's happening there, but we aren't nervous about being here in Israel," says 26-year-old Anfam Faygan, mother of Losen. "We have some anxieties about being hit by a missile, but we don't feel any different from the other parents in the hospital. They treat our daughter as they would their own." It's her daughter's second operation at Wolfson. Her first was at the age of 10 days. Her final corrective surgery was on Sunday. "The parents and chil- dren feel very safe in Israel," remarks Houri, whose son is now serving in the Is- rael Defense Forces. "You can see they feel good, by their smiles." He remembers an incident some years ago when two Israeli soldiers in Ramallah were lynched by a mob of Children on page 15A