Israel enjoys close relations with a number of countries that cover the gamut of growing cooperation – military, economic, natural resources and humanitarian. In particular, there is a synergy in the medical field where Tel Hashomer-Sheba Medical Center engenders a true bond with medical practitioners across the globe.
Israel has a particularly close relationship with its near Mediterranean neighbor, Cyprus. When a Cypriot police officer was shot in the spine in the line of duty, it became clear that more intensive treatment was necessary to treat his critical condition. Cypriot medical officials didn’t hesitate to airlift him to Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer in Israel. After being treated and rehabilitated at Sheba, the police officer is now recovering at home in Cyprus.
That wounded officer is just one example of many special patients who are sent to Israel as part of the ever-blossoming medical cooperation between the countries.
Spearheading this cooperation is Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer, which has laid the groundwork for a relationship based on synergy, learning from one another and mutual respect. In short, it’s a win-win partnership where both Sheba and Cyprus come out on top.
“We see ourselves not just as a leading Israeli hospital, but also as a hospital with global impact,” Prof. Arnon Afek, Associate Director General, the Acting Director of Sheba General Hospital, said. “We have a soft spot for the people of Cyprus. They’re small, like us. And also have to grapple with the geo-political dangers rampant in the Mediterranean region.”
For Cypriot Ambassador to Israel, Thessalia Shambos, Israel fills many of her country’s strategic needs. While Cyprus has many excellent doctors, medical practitioners and hospitals, it is a relatively small island and there are specialized services that it is unable to provide.
“As a member of the European Union, Cyprus was more used to looking to its European partners, particularly Britain and Greece,” she said. “Then we realized, Israel is even closer and has some truly top-notch medical facilities.”
Prof. Afek’s words ring even truer when one considers how Sheba’s reach extends far beyond the medical center’s compound and even Cyprus. In June, its Director General Prof. Yitshak Kreiss traveled to Bahrain to participate in the “peace through prosperity” economic summit. At the time, Kreiss said that Sheba acts as a “bridge to peace” to nations in the Middle East, many of which have no official diplomatic ties to Israel.
The meeting in Bahrain was obviously important from a geopolitical point of view and keeps with the hospital’s position as a bridge between communities.
However, the medical practitioners at the hospital also go out into the field and help save lives; something that was only too apparent in March 2019, when a small team went to Mozambique. They arrived in the southeastern African country to help with relief efforts after it was hit with one of the severest cyclones in 100 years.
Sheba’s reputation – as one of the Top 10 Hospitals in the World according to a recent Newsweek article – particularly as an outstanding multi-disciplinary center, is one that immediately puts patients at ease.
According to Amb. Shambos one of the outstanding features of Sheba is that, “The ethos of the Israeli doctors, nurses and medical teams at Sheba is to make patients feel at home. These are often people who know nothing about Israel, some of whom don’t speak any English. They see Israeli doctors’ commitment to the Hippocratic oath – they don’t care where a person is from, they just treat the patient who is in front of them.”
“It’s a matter of mentality – and the way that medicine is practiced here. I hear that Israel is so different from other countries – because it shows a dedication to a mission. Everyone took an oath and they act like a team,” Amb. Shambos added.
Ultimately, these international relationships are not just evidence of the world’s trust regarding Israel’s acumen in the medical field. At its core, it demonstrates that medicine can be a form of diplomacy.
“Cyprus is a template of what international cooperation can look like with a myriad of countries,” Prof. Afek said. “Helping the Cypriot people is part of our global vision. If there’s one field which can overcome political disagreements and be a true bridge to peace over the troubled waters in the Middle East, it’s medicine!”
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