Some Syrians injured in the country's civil war find treatment in Israel
The Israeli hospitals can provide treatment not available in the Syrian war zone
Many of the Syrians were injured fighting with the rebels
The scars of surgery run all the way down Jamal’s left leg.
He struggles to walk, requiring crutches that he is still learning to use. A bulky metal brace still holds his lower left leg together. It clanks on the ground as he makes his way down the hallways of the hospital.
Jamal has been through hell. He is 7 years old. And he has come out smiling.
His family is from war-torn Syria. A rocket destroyed his leg, scarring his skin. His mother says she thought he would die.
“He needed nine packs of blood that they didn’t have,” she says of the medical facility in Syria. “He went into a coma for 20 days as a result.”
Eighteen surgeries later, Jamal is recovering after treatment at Ziv Medical Center in northern Israel, one of a group of hospitals that has treated nearly 2,000 injured Syrians over the last two years.
A man who asked to be called only Samir for his protection, is being treated at the Israeli hospital for two broken arms. The 28-year-old says he was fighting with the rebel Free Syrian Army when a rocket landed nearby.
“The regime army was attacking our village,” he says. “We were fighting to save it when I was injured by a tank bomb.”
Most of the wounded who come for treatment are men. Their injuries speak of recent combat. Shrapnel wounds. Broken bones. Yazan, 24, will return to Syria with a metal brace in his leg, the result of a nearby rocket attack on the rebel army fighting to topple the Syrian government. Yazan has many long weeks of treatment and rehab ahead.
“I was not afraid to come. They told me it’s the best for the treatment I need,” Yazan said. “My enemy is the Syrian regime.”
Syria’s civil war is now well into its fourth year. The frontier across from the Golan Heights was once controlled by Syrian forces, but is now in the hands of the rebels led by al-Nusra and the Free Syrian Army. The Israeli military, which brings Syrian patients to the hospital, has no official position on the Syrian civil war. But Lt. Col. Peter Lerner acknowledges most of the patients oppose the Syrian government.
“When somebody comes to the border, we don’t ask them who they are. We just make sure that they don’t have any weapons on them. And they get the medical aid that they require,” Lerner said.
‘One small stone in the building of peace’
In the hospital, questions of religion and politics matter little to Dr. Alex Lerner, one of the world’s leading experts on traumatic battlefield injuries. He worries about saving lives and limbs.
“I hope maybe our treatment may be one small stone in the building of peace in our region,” Lerner said with a smile. “Maybe.”
Meanwhile, Jamal is finally ready to leave the hospital. On the final day before he is discharged from the hospital, he sings a tune to pass the time.
It is a song of revolution.