ISRAEL: Interfaith prayer outside hospital aims to heal

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Rabbis, priests and sheiks came together in Israel on Monday for a prayer for peace. Organized by Rabbis for Human Rights (RHR), together with Jerusalem Peacemakers’ Eliyahu McLean, the group of interfaith clerics congregated outside the Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer where Israeli soldiers and civilians and Gazans receive medical treatment. Rabbi Arik W. Ascherman, director of RHR, spoke of the deep pain that brought them there; the rabbis recited El Male Rahamim, a Jewish prayer for the dead, and the priests and Sufi sheiks offered their own prayers. The ceremony ended in a song for peace in Arabic and Hebrew.

The ceremony was moving, but participants were dismayed that their goodwill had been contained to a small bit of pavement away from the view of citizens. Later, police barred them from entering the hospital as a group to visit Israeli and Palestinian patients, saying the hospital objected on the grounds that the event was ‘politically controversial.’

Tel Hashomer hospital became the center of attention for several days during Israel’s military campaign in Gaza following the dramatic death of three of the daughters of Dr. Aboul Aish, a Gazan doctor who works at the Israeli hospital. Arriving at the hospital together with his injured family members, Dr. Aboul Aish was embraced by the hospital administration and his Israeli colleagues. The media attention reminded people that Tel Hashomer, like many other Israeli hospitals, do treat Palestinians on a regular basis. But it also brought an unpleasant exchange that again highlighted the raw reality. Dr. Aish had been granted permission to hold a press conference in the lobby and was talking to journalists when Israelis shouted out that he was ‘propagandizing’ and demanded that the press conference be halted immediately. Among the protestors was Levana Stern, whose three sons were serving in Gaza.

Toward the end of the Gaza operation, Israel had set up a humanitarian medical clinic at the Erez crossing. Now, it is reported, the clinic opened by Magen David Adom is closing because Hamas prevented Palestinians from seeking medical treatment there.


-- Batsheva Sobelman in Jerusalem