Thursday, June 27, 2002

Naomi Ragen sent this out on her mailing list:

Oncologist Speaks Out

By Dr. Nathan Cherny

That I care for the well being of tens of Palestinian cancer patients and
their families is irrelevant. As a Jew living in Israel, and, more
specifically, Jerusalem, I am a potential target worthy of maiming or
assassination. That is the miserable nature of the Palestinian struggle for

That I am here to recount these thoughts is by sheer virtue of timing.
Minutes after I passed through the Patt intersection en route to the Shaare
Zedek Medical Center, Bus 32 was exploded by a young suicide bomber. Almost
everyone on the bus was killed, most instantly. Shrapnel and flying sheets
of metal killed and maimed passing pedestrians and the drivers and
passengers of adjacent vehicles.
Besides caring for Israeli and Palestinian cancer patients, I teach medical
students a course in Palliative Medicine; the care of patients with
incurable illnesses. At any one time I usually have 10-15 students; Jews and
Palestinians together. Among my current group is a wonderfully bright,
sensitive and caring 24 year old woman: Shelly Nahari. Wednesday's
tutorialwas cancelled. Instead my students were learning the harsh realities
of acute grief as they attended the funeral of Shelly's 22 year old sister,
Shiri, who was killed in the carnage that I had barely escaped.

Jerusalem is small and the circle of my patients, colleagues and their
families is wide. In this week alone, I have shared one degree of
separation from four miserable tragedies.

Dr Eisenman is a young opthalmologist at Shaare Zedek. His wife,
mother-in-law, 5 year old daughter and eighteen month old son were waiting
at the bus stop at French Hill, in northern Jerusalem, under brilliant blue
skies when a terrorist jumped from a passing vehicle and ran toward them.

As his belt exploded he showered all those in proximity with gore and a
malicious salad of bolts and nails. The storm of shrapnel did its intended
job. Dr. Eisenman's young daughter and mother-in-law were killed instantly.
Today his infant son is in intensive care. This afternoon, his injured wife
by his side, he buried his golden haired daughter next to her beloved

Devora Margalit is a community nurse who helps cancer patients, and
others,cope with stomas. Helping people cope with the whole new world of
bags to collect their urine or feces is unromantic but vital work. In her
former days she was a hospice nurse caring for the terminally ill. In the
past days she has needed all of her skills in pain control as she has helped
nurse her 15 year old son who received burns to 50% of his body. His school
(Yeshiva) had an ongoing project tending to a cherry orchard. Last week as
they left the orchard a booby trapped gas canister that was rigged as a
shrapnel laden bomb was set off. In the past week he has had 3 operations as
the surgeons gradually debride his wounds and fight infections. For now,the
pain is the challenge. It is now controlled with a portable morphine pump.
The future holds years of work managing skin grafts and scars.

In the eyes of the Hamas, The Islamic Jihad, The Hizbolah, and Fatah, all of
this is a justifiable expression of national self determination. In their
eyes, the path to statehood is legitimately strewn with the bodies of
children, pensioners, grandparents and bus drivers. If they had here way, it
would be strewn with my body as well.

In becoming the symbols of the battle for Palestinian independence, these
elements undermine the legitimacy of the Palestinian cause; for they present
the Palestinians as a fundamentally uncivil, lawless, cruel and undeserving

Suicide bombings, murder and vilification serve only to delegitimize the
cause and distance the prospect of an independent Palestinian State. A
community and a people that tolerates and condones such behavior is
fundamentally unworthy.

Mr Arafat's denunciations ring hollow. The paper trail uncovered by the
Israeli Defense Forces show, beyond reasonable doubt, that he is directly
and intimately involved with the provision of funding to the militias
responsible for this civilian carnage. You can't call for a million martyrs
to liberate Palestine and still call yourself a peacemaker.

Zero tolerance is what is called for. If there is a responsible Palestinian
leadership, let them join forces with the Israel Defense Forces in
eradicating this sick and pernicious element in their society.

As long as I, my friends, colleagues, patients and their children are
targets; the Palestinians cannot be entrusted to responsibilities of

I know that things can be different. I work with Palestinians; as patients
and as colleagues. Our relationships are warm and mutually supportive.
Indeed, in the awful darkness of the past 18 months these relationships have
been a vital part of my coping. I know, from my first hand experience,that
there is the real potential for love and respect. Though we may have
political differences, we appreciate the potential for mutual benefit
through cooperation. This is the human thread that sustains my hope.

Utlimately then, I support the emergence of a Palestinian state; but my
support is conditional. It is conditional upon the prospect of living, in
security and trust, side by side with a civil and humane Palestinian
society; in respect and cooperation.

The ball is in their court.

Director, Cancer Pain and Palliative Medicine
Dept of Oncology
Shaare Zedek Medical Center
Jerusalem, Israel