Israeli Doctor Speaks About Providing Humanitarian Aid to Syrian War Victims

Dr. Salman Zarka, a retired IDF Colonel and the director general of Ziv Medical Center in Zefat in northern Israel, is on a mission. He wants the world to know that his hospital is providing medical and humanitarian care to victims of the Syrian civil war.
The fact that Syria has been Israel’s sworn enemy for many years hasn’t deterred Israel from caring for more than 2,000 wounded and sick Syrians since 2013.
Impressed by this work, APF invited Dr. Zarka to come speak in the U.S. This spring, on an APF-facilitated tour, he spoke at seven venues: in New York and Atlanta, plus two locations in Washington, DC, and three in Florida. It was heartening to hear him talk about how Israel is providing exactly the same high standard of care to Syrians that Israeli citizens receive.
Attendees were moved to tears as Dr. Zarka shared stories of horrifically maimed Syrian children who appear alone at the Israeli border, and of wounded Syrians who arrive at the Israeli army post, dragged there on mattresses by relatives desperate to save their lives. One particularly riveting story involved a 15-year-old girl, pregnant with twins, who showed up at the border. Hospital staffers performed an emergency Caesarean and were able to save all three lives.
Another situation that’s encountered all too frequently are patients with severe wounds to their limbs. It’s standard operating procedure in global war situations to amputate a damaged limb to save a patient’s life: This relatively straightforward procedure requires one operation and two or three days of hospitalization. By contrast, Israeli medical care seeks to save limbs whenever possible. Doing so requires multiple operations and a much longer post-operative recovery (and is considerably more costly). But as a result of this superior Israeli care, many wounded Syrians return home with their maimed limbs healed and intact, often accompanied by expensive rehabilitation equipment that the hospital staff knows they will never see again.
There are countless stories like this, and many are almost too painful to listen to. Perhaps the most amazing thing is that all those treatments, some spanning months, are offered for free, and subsidized by the hospitals themselves, which receive insufficient support from the Israeli government.
APF is deeply grateful to all the volunteers at the Friends of Ziv Medical Center community for their hard work in making Dr. Zarka’s Florida engagements a reality. We would also like to extend our warm gratitude to Temple Beth Torah in Aventura, FL, and Temple Beth-Am in Jupiter, FL, which hosted gatherings. Special thank-yous go out to APF board member Richard Klitzberg, who organized theevent at his community in Boca Raton; the entire team at the Israeli Consulate in Atlanta for their warm Southern hospitality; the Atlanta AJC for organizing the event; Dr. Eddie Greenberg and his wife, Galia, for holding an event with Dr. Zarka at their home. Our sincere gratitude to the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C., and especially to Israeli Deputy Chief of Mission, Reuven Azar, for hosting a special event at his home in Maryland. Many thanks to Alliance Bernstein in NYC and especially to Mrs. Kim Isaacs Katz for hosting a wonderful event at the 40th floor overlooking Central Park. Dr. Zarka was touched by the warm hospitality he received everywhere we traveled.