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Israeli hospital visit shows what is good and right
February 13th, 2004
As we began to tour the Alyn Pediatric and Adolescent Rehabilitation Hospital in Jerusalem, we were told that Magic Michaels wife had delivered a baby the day prior and there was a very good chance he wouldnt be making an appearance on our tour.
As a pregnant woman I felt two distinct responses to this news. On the one hand, I was glad to hear that he would be with his wife she needed him. At the same time, I was a bit disappointed that I wouldnt have the opportunity to meet this Patch Adams mitzvah maker in person.
Undeterred, we continued our tour. Sure enough, at our first stop, there was Magic Michael. He was sitting on a small rolling chair dressed in clown clothing. His hands were holding those of a small boy, probably no more than one and a half years old.
A giant kazoo was hanging around his neck. He played some notes on the kazoo, took a bag respirator, gave the young boy a few squeezes into his tracheostomy, and then persuaded him to take a few steps.
The whole process was absolutely mesmerizing and inspiring to watch. Magic Michael isnt a doctor but this medical attention seemed to come naturally to him.
He represents so much of what is good and right about the Alyn Hospital. Like the rest of the staff of Alyn, a private hospital and the only one of its kind in Israel, they really care about the children, their treatment, and their ability to deal with their illnesses.
Stop after stop on our tour whether to the mats for physical therapy, or to the pool for another form of therapy we saw what makes the hospital remarkable.
Alyn was one of many inspiring places that I had the chance to visit last month as a participant in this years Israel Bonds Jerusalem Rabbinic Conference.
Joined by my husband and 40 other rabbis and spouses, I saw and learned incredible things. One other local rabbi shared the experience with me Rabbi Jacob Herber of Congregation Beth Israel, who is a member of the executive committee of Israel Bonds National Rabbinic Cabinet.
Rather than spend our days sitting in a conference room, we set out to explore Israel. In addition to seeing many new sights, I was comforted by the presence of my old favorites. Things such as reaching out to touch the Kotel, visiting the Judaica exhibits at the Israel Museum, eating falafel on Ben Yehuda street and praying at Kol Haneshema synagogue.
I felt good in these familiar places and comforted by a land that I hold so dear to my heart. After hearing horror stories from the past three years, I went to Israel expecting things to be different. Though certain elements were lost; overall, it was still very much the same.
Were we still a bit cautious? Absolutely. You cant go to Israel and not be. Did we still avoid buses and try to avoid extremely crowded places? Certainly. Yet, we still managed to see this beautiful land of milk and honey (and hummus).
This is the reality of Israel. This is the message that I carry back from Israel: Life hasnt stopped for most Israelis. They are tough, determined, proud of their land, and they are going to live. There are also deep-rooted scars from these long years of fighting.
Moments after shopping on Allenby Street in Tel Aviv, we heard a loud explosion from a bus and everyone went nuts. Within minutes there were reports that a bomb had struck the crowded street. CNN picked up the news.
Thankfully, it wasnt a bomb at all, rather a tire blowing off a bus. Everyone was okay but we were able to see Israelis battle wounds, their constant fear of being attacked and their tough guarded shells. And then again, life went on.
I am thankful that while we were in Israel, thousands of fellow tourists filled the streets. Hotels and planes were filled and American Jews were in Israel.
Israel needs us. The gravest concern plaguing Israel while we were there wasnt a bomb it was a devastated economy. Three years without tourism has hurt Israel and it has hurt Israelis.
So, what did I bring back with me in my suitcase besides souvenirs? A re-energized love and longing for Israel, a desire to support her in whatever way I can, and the notion that life in Israel continues and I am proud of her for that.
If I forget thee o Jerusalem, let my right hand wither (Psalm 137).
Rabbi Shari Shamah is the associate rabbi of Congregation Shalom.