Photo Credit: Nati Shohat / Flash 90
The computer-monitored OR of the Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, Israel (illustration image).

For the first time in northern Israel, sex-change operations for people with gender dysphoria and related mental illnesses were performed on three unidentified individuals at the Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya.

US-based Professor Loren Schechter led the procedures, according to an announcement from the hospital, which noted that a multidisciplinary team comprised of psychiatrists, a social worker, endocrinologist and plastic surgeons had been created to provide the necessary services for the GAS (“gender affirming surgery”) patients.


The surgeries were carried out at the hospital in collaboration with Tel Aviv’s Sheba Medical Center, which up to this point has been the only medical facility in Israel authorized to perform these procedures which can include complete sterilization.

All three patients were subsequently cared for in the hospital’s Women and Maternity Department headed by Professor Lior Levenstein and are said to be “doing well.”

“We’ve had a very exciting week, during which three gender affirming surgeries were performed for the first time in the northern region,” said Levenstein. “This is great news for female patients, who in the past had to wait years for this surgery or undergo it abroad.

It’s unclear if the patients are actually women, or if they are men who had their male organs removed, or if they are women and had their female organs removed. The ages of the patients were not released either.

“In my view, it is very important to be able to offer this service in another medical center in Israel, and not only in the central area, so that the service will be more accessible, and thus women living in the north will be able to receive it near their homes,” Levenstein said.

Sheba Medical Center’s director of “gender affirming surgeries”, plastic surgery specialist Dr. Alon Liran, said Sheba is trying to create additional centers in Israel to offer services for those seeking “gender affirmation.”

“We are happy that the Galilee Medical Center picked up the gauntlet and got involved in the task,” he said, adding that “accessibility of treatment to the periphery” is a “significant contribution for the trans community.”

With all due respect to the “trans” community and its advocates in Sheba Medical Center, one has to wonder whether the massive funding allocated for such services wouldn’t be better spent on increasing the number of desperately-needed doctors in the periphery.

There is a huge disparity between essential health care services for those in the periphery and in central Israel, and in fact the number of physicians per capita, nationwide, is lower in Israel than in the OECD (3.1 vs 3.5 per 1,000 population respectively).

The Israeli Medical Association reported in a 2011 position paper that northern and southern Israel have the lowest life expectancy and the highest rate of infant mortality in the country.

Patients in southern Israel are told they must wait months – sometimes six months or longer – for medical services such as getting an MRI or getting an appointment to see a specialist such as an ENT (ear, nose and throat) doctor.

The IMA report showed the southern and northern regions have about half the number of general physicians and specialists that are found in the center of the country.

It’s not a new statistic: A community medicine study conducted by Israel’s Health Ministry based on data from 2003 to 2004 revealed the percentage of medical community specialists in the north and south was the lowest in Israel.

“Simply stated, in Israel there is a systematic and organized neglect of residents of the periphery in the matter of healthcare, leaving people to their fate by denying them equal access to availability of medical treatment, medical technologies and services,” the director of Galilee Medical Center, Professor Masad Barhoum wrote in a 2021 op-ed published in The Jerusalem Post.

“I do not know why the system chooses to do one thing and not another, this is really not within my comprehension, but over the years the price, like the gap, becomes intolerable and unforgivable,” Barhoum wrote.

He’s right and it’s easy to understand why he took on gender affirming surgery, both as a means of increasing the hospital’s bottom line and to gain good publicity in hopes of further financial success.

But it doesn’t change the basic disparity, nor does it answer the question: Why isn’t the State of Israel, known worldwide for its cutting-edge medical advances, taking care of the self-sacrificing citizens living in the periphery who help maintain the integrity of this country’s borders?


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