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April 28, 2015 / 9 Iyar, 5775
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Healing Under Fire: How Ashkelon’s Barzilay Medical Center Coped with Four Days of Rockets

The Barzilay Medical Center Emergency Room. Some 100 critical patients were moved to secure areas under rocket threat.

The Barzilay Medical Center Emergency Room. Some 100 critical patients were moved to secure areas under rocket threat.
Photo Credit: Yori Yanover / The Jewish Press

“We are in the process of building a new, protected emergency room, which should be ready in two to three years,” he said, and his subdued smile suggested two to three years was a very long time when you live this close to Jihadists with access to batteries of Grad missiles.

But he was effusive in describing his facility’s openness to anyone who requires medical help, including folks from the very area that’s shelling his facility.

“In this hospital we also treat Palestinians, and among the patients we had to transfer under the Grad shelling to the protected areas were civilians from the Gaza strip,” he said.  “It reminded me of something I saw four years ago, during the Cast Lead operation. We had a pair of Palestinian twins who were receiving treatment here, and their mother refused to go back to Gaza. She said she preferred staying here and receiving treatment under the missile fire that came at her from her own home town.”

Then he reiterated: “We don’t differentiate between patients based on their nationality. We treat everyone.”

On the morning we spoke, one day after an unofficial cease fire between Israel and the Palestinians had gone into effect, Barzilay was starting to go back to its ordinary operations.

“It took some time,” Dr. Levy said, “but now we are under ordinary conditions, the kids are back in school, everything is OK.”

Then he intimated: “I pray for the day when we no longer need to invest in emergencies, and we can invest all this money in developing medical technologies…”

A new facility that will offer larger sheltered quarters will be completed in two to three years.

A new facility that will offer larger sheltered quarters will be completed in two to three years.

I asked Dr. Levy if there were serious medical consequences from the four days of shelling.

“Luckily, no,” he said. “Luckily, our staff is so well trained and skilled, that they accomplished the moving of so many patients without harmful consequences.”

Beyond the serious inconvenience, and beyond the harsh responsibility in deciding who must be moved and who can stay, and who is in such a dire condition that they may not be moved at all.

What about budgetary consequences?

“Whenever something like that happens we face budgetary issues,” he said. “It’s secondary, of course, but we feel the economic pinch as a result of admitting fewer patients and performing fewer operations. After all, our income depends on those, and here our income suffered some. But we’ll deal with it.”

About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.


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