How to Judge the State of Israel - Gidon Goodman
It was once said that the way to best judge a country is not its government, taxes, food or even its houses, the way to judge a country is how it treats its sick and vulnerable. No country exemplifies that more than the State of Israel. I have been visiting the hospital fortnightly for the last 13 years of my life. After attending Australian hospitals for longer than I can remember, last week, Thursday 6 December, was the first time I have ever received treatment outside of Australia.
My experience at Shaare Tzedek Hospital in Jerusalem was truly unbelievable. The two hours receiving my Gaucher treatment completely altered my view of Israel, more than the Kotel or any other stop on the life changing journey that is IST. Despite how great my home country of Australia is, and as much as I believe our health system is extraordinary, it simply has nothing on the excellence and compassion of the health system I was exposed to in Israel. Not only was the hospital modern, the machines new, the staff well-trained, the treatment quick and effective, the wait extremely short and the hospital well built and finely serviced, which are all qualities found across the world, it was also the most friendly, compassionate and inspiring place in Israel and, in my opinion, the whole globe.
I believe with all my heart that it is the best example of Jewish spirit and excellence in the world. After entering the hospital and seeking out the Gaucher clinic, which was coincidentally situated next to the Rabbi’s office, I was immediately greeted by a host of friendly and helpful staff. Despite some language differences, the nurses translated my paperwork into Hebrew and escorted me to the Children’s Oncology Ward with smiles on their faces. I was then introduced to the nurses who would take care of me, all of whom couldn’t have been nicer and gave me the best possible treatment; all embodying the values of Chessed (kindness).
However, the true shock came when I finally settled into my seat, infusion pump on and put in my earphones, expecting to rest for the next hour and a half. I couldn’t have been more wrong. First, an army unit with beautiful specially trained service dogs came in, uplifting not only myself (as a dog lover) but also the young Israeli girl receiving chemotherapy in the seat next to me. They also gave everyone beautifully wrapped Chanukah presents, irrespective of whether they were foreign (me), Jewish, Muslim, Israeli, Arab or Christian. Next entered the medical clowns, cheering up all the children on the ward with songs and games. This was then followed by the arrival of sufganiyot (donuts), with an array of delicious toppings which we could add on, alongside even more singing soldiers and volunteers with guitars. As soon as I was back to my seat, I was gifted another Chanukah present by a group of female soldiers from another army unit. Lastly, a friendly Israeli woman and her daughter gifted me with a homemade bag of sweets.
The festivities and fun continued throughout the short, two-hour treatment. Whilst hospital will never be a happy experience, with this sort of excellent treatment and genuine compassion, it will certainly be a better one. Throughout all of this, the patients and carers shared experiences and provided helpful advice on how to sneak on to the Jerusalem Light Rail. Owing to this, it would have been hard to come out of this hospital without a smile on my face.
Thus, if we judge the State of Israel by how it treats its sick and vulnerable, in both medical care and compassion, no matter what race or religion, then we will surely find that the State of Israel isn’t just good, or even great, in its treatment of the sick and vulnerable it is the best of the best. To me, it is the greatest achievement of the State of Israel and the crown jewel of the Jewish state.
A common rallying cry of the Jewish people is ‘Am Yisrael Chai’, or ‘The people of Israel are alive’. I’ve certainly never seen anyone try harder to make that statement true.