In one hospital room, a 22-year-old fighter from the Free Syrian Army was recovering from a gunshot wound in the shoulder. The Syrian army, he asserted, had committed atrocities, destroying mosques and raping women. “The Free Syrian Army will never fight Israel,” he said. “Assad’s army is the enemy, not the Israeli military.”
Shortly after he spoke, a pair of Israeli soldiers arrived to escort the young man back to the border after he was cleared for release from the hospital. Changing out of his hospital smock, he donned the ragged clothes of a rebel fighter that he’d arrived in, his pants ripped at the knee. He donned a pair of military-style boots he said he’d obtained from Jordan.
A 17-year-old who entered the room in a wheelchair said that at the border he’d been frightened by Israeli soldiers pointing their rifles at him and ordering him to raise his hands. After an examination and transfer for medical treatment, he said he was surprised by the “compassion, sympathy and humanity” shown him at the hospital.
Dr. Masad Barhoum, the hospital’s director, who’s an Israeli Arab, said the military had pressed the Nahariya facility – which serves both Jewish and Arab Israelis in northern Israel – into service to help handle serious cases that army medics were unequipped to deal with.
“We’re helping people simply as human beings,’ he said. “There’s a human tragedy unfolding close by, and we’re moved by the opportunity to help.”
Sela said he felt “privileged to help people who arrive with such serious wounds, when we know that in Syria there’s no chance they’ll get this level of treatment. At the human level, when you touch someone you’ve touched a whole world, and he will pass it on.”