in Israeli hospitals, Arabs at the forefront

Medical personnel from the quarantine room at Shaare Zedek Hospital in Jerusalem on March 24. YONATAN SINDEL / FLASH90

In Israel, the heroes in white coats are largely Arabs. In these times of epidemic, they represent an essential proportion of the medical personnel in the hospitals. According to figures from the interior ministry obtained by the daily Haaretz, 17% of doctors and a quarter of nurses come from the Arab minority, as well as nearly one in two pharmacists – and that's not counting maintenance staff, low-paid jobs of which they occupy the overwhelming majority . Without them, the national health system would collapse.

The irony is that parliamentarians from this minority, descendants of Arabs who stayed on their lands after the creation of the Israeli state in 1948, were at the same time attacked with extreme violence. in the Knesset.

After the legislative elections on March 2, they supported the opposition to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Since then, the right has investigated their disloyalty lawsuit, calling them "Support terrorism. " “We are fighting two viruses: that of corona and that of racism. The corona, we will defeat it. For racism, it will take longer … ", sums up Ahmad Tibi, a member of the United List of Arab Parties, who never misses an opportunity to recall that he is the only doctor (gynecologist) to sit in Parliament.

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In her guard room at Hadassah Hospital, founded at the time of the British mandate on Mount Scopus in Jerusalem, Naela Hayek, 49, follows these debates on the news sites, on her mobile phone. What she reads frightens her. "It offends me, but they can say whatever they want, it has no influence at the hospital. I'm at home and we all fight together ", she says. Mme Hayek heads the nurses in the intensive care unit. For weeks, it has been preparing 250 Jewish and Arab colleagues to deal with the epidemic. The Covid-19 is lagging behind Europe here. The Israeli authorities count more than 4,300 cases of contagion and sixteen dead, the hospitals are not yet overcrowded. Butme Hayek and his colleagues expect to be on the front lines soon.

Politics don't come into the hospital

Naela Hayek belongs to the Arab middle class who ardently desire to live a "normal" life. She is married to a police officer, their children went to primary school in a mixed school in Jerusalem. Last year, the couple moved to a Jewish quarter. Like many of his colleagues, Mme Hayek takes the hospital for a bubble, where politics does not enter. She herself hardly talks about it. Racism is sometimes expressed in the halls, she says, but it is through the voices of patients that she refuses to judge. "They are in critical condition, their family is under pressure", she apologizes.


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