Israel: March, 1995, ( cont.) At 8:00 a.m., Shaul arrived at the hotel and assured us that he would find something at the hospital that would take care of Jay’s stomach problem.
The hospital was about a half-hour drive from our hotel in Tel Aviv and was located just off the freeway to Jerusalem. It was situated on a sixty-acre parcel, and until as recently as 1989, the complex consisted primarily of Quonset huts and army barracks built in the 1930s. Some of the departments still functioned in the old buildings, like the radiology department, the geriatrics facilities, and all the labs. Recently, however, the hospital had raised enough money to construct very modern and superbly adequate facilities for their various departments, including surgical, pediatrics, dialysis, and urology. The only operations that were not now performed at the hospital were open-heart surgeries.
The name of the hospital was Assaf Harofeh Medical Center (pronounced “asof haro-fey”). Shaul informed us that for defensive reasons the hospital was spread out over sixty acres. One enemy Scud missile might take out one-fourth of the complex but was very unlikely to shut down the entire facility. Historically, the old Quonset huts and barracks hospital had been a military hospital, and now, even though it was run by the separate hospital administration, it still served over eighteen thousand Israel soldiers annually.
Shaul first drove us around the sixty acres, and then later we walked through most of the hospital complex. Of course, Project C.U.R.E.’s being there dictated that Shaul show us every bad situation that needed to be corrected and necessitated our meeting with every doctor and department that could use special help. The tour we got was very different, I’m sure, from the PR tour that most folks received.
Even though the older sections of the hospital reminded me of hundreds of other third-world hospitals we had visited, this eight-hundred-bed hospital definitely could not be considered a third-world facility. Most of the hospital was absolutely first-world class, and some departments were equipped as well as, or better than, some of the hospitals in Denver.
At 11:30 our meeting took place in Shaul’s office. He had arranged for three of the hospital’s decision makers to be present. First was Gaon Chai. He was the chief engineer and had been at the hospital for eighteen years, which placed him there for many years while it was still solely a military hospital. He knew the hospital and the equipment inside out. Then there were two men who were in charge of the ordering and handling of the medical goods used by the hospital. Their names were Semion Shamir and Arik Zipori. Just as Jay and I had been prewarned, all three men were defensive about the Americans coming and dumping old and inferior medical goods on them.
After our introductions, Shaul asked me to tell them about Project C.U.R.E. and how it came about that we were in Israel. I started out by telling them that we had come to make personal inspections of the facilities so that we would know firsthand the condition and needs of the hospital. I told them that I personally did not see many things they had need of, so we would continue to send our warehouse inventories where there was true desperation. I let them know how much I respected them individually and what they had done to build their fine hospital in the recent past.
With that approach I could feel them start to relax. They appreciated it when I told them that they could rest assured that Project C.U.R.E. would never send them anything that they could not use and would end up storing down at the end of some hallway, when there were at least ten other hospitals that could truly put it to use.
That approach seemed to put the shoe on the other foot, and now they began selling me on what they needed and how badly they needed it. I later agreed that perhaps Project C.U.R.E. might have some things in the future that their hospital might use. But totally missing from the conversation were the feelings of gratitude and relief and hope expressed so many times by the doctors in Africa, South America, and Russia who really, truly had nothing.
About two-thirds of the way through our meeting, I introduced the idea that if Project C.U.R.E. brought updated equipment to them, then they would donate their replaced equipment to us to take elsewhere to some needy hospital or clinic. To my surprise, they were very resistant to that idea of giving their old equipment away to someone less fortunate. Their answer was, “Oh no, we couldn’t just give those to you.”
Our meeting adjourned, to be taken back up at lunch, which was to be served in the hospital’s private dining room. We were joined there by our friend Dr. Yigal Halperin, the associate director of the hospital, and Dr. Waron (pronounced “varon”), one of the other administrators.
Our conversation continued, and the engineer, Gaon Chai, looked at me and asked me, “Why are you doing this?”
I had a ten-minute, undisturbed opportunity to tell him about who I used to be, and because of a changed heart and head, I had vowed to spend the rest of my life helping people in need rather than pursuing a greedy life of personal accumulation. I felt like Jesus was right next to me helping me to say the right things in a manner Gaon could understand. Before we left the lunch table, we reviewed and summarized our discussion for the benefit of Dr. Yigal and Dr. Waron.
It was good to have Jay on the trip with me. We were able to discuss and reflect on the meetings we had and the things we had seen. Quite frankly, for me the jury is still out on what course of action Project C.U.R.E. should follow. I did not see desperate need in Israel, and Project C.U.R.E., I believe, has been raised up to help meet desperate need. However, these are God’s chosen people, and if God is engineering the association with the people from Assaf Harofeh hospital, then I certainly want to be sensitive to how all those details might fit together.
Next Week: Understanding Israel
© Dr. James W. Jackson
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