Israeli emergency medical providers are learning Arabic to optimize the services they give to the Arab population in Jerusalem.
Magen David Adom, one of Israel’s primary emergency medical services, announced Tuesday that the organization is offering Arabic-language instruction to volunteers in Jerusalem in order to better serve the city’s Arabic-speaking population.
According to a statement released by the group, 40 volunteers in the Jerusalem district have signed up for the first session of courses. Both volunteers and patients regularly encounter difficulties communicating across cultural lines and language barriers in life-threatening situations, limiting MDA’s ability to provide the optimal crucial service.
“I am proud of our volunteers and employees who are constantly focused on improving the medical care we provide around the country and the world. Every one of them is guided only by the principle of saving lives,” said MDA National Director Eli Bin.
The course in spoken Arabic, proposed by MDA medic Ziad Jaadla, began in early February and will continue once a week during the academic year. Instruction is provided by Dialogue Jerusalem, a not-for-profit dedicated to increasing communication between Jewish and Arab Jerusalemites.
“There is a great need for medical professionals who really care about the entire population of Jerusalemites and want to carry out their duties faithfully and to help as much as they can,” said a spokeswoman for Dialogue Jerusalem. “By expanding our knowledge of languages opens up doors to understanding new cultures and contributes to a collaborative atmosphere between the sides.”
Long Track Record of Treating Palestinian Patients
This instance is by no means a unique example of Israelis providing Arabs with medical treatment. Israeli hospitals and medical teams have a long track record of treating Palestinian patients, in many cases free of charge.
IDF medical teams and Israeli civilian emergency units from communities in Judea and Samaria regularly treat local Arabs, often after car accidents, for a broad array of ailments and injuries. Walking to an IDF checkpoint or to the front gate of an Israeli community for medical treatment is common practice among Arabs living in the Palestinian Authority (PA)-administered territories. In some months, Israeli medics treat more Palestinians than Israelis.
Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa provides medical care to hundreds of patients from Gaza and the PA-administered territories year round; 650 children and teenagers were treated there throughout 2013, for instance.
A report published by Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) shows that 219,464 Palestinian patients received medical treatment in Israeli hospitals during 2012, including 21,270 children.
The IDF has even established a specially designated IDF reserves company that focuses entirely on providing medical care and humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian population.
Capt. (Res.) Dr. Yishai Lev, a commander in the company, stresses that when people are wounded, attention is not placed on whether or not the person is Israeli, but on the importance of people’s common humanity. “This medical care stems from our commitment to the Jewish and modern value of human rights,” he said.