Like Advil For Cancer

March 3, 2016 - accent chair

This is a second of dual articles by Amir Tibon about Syrian refugees. Read a initial here.

The studious sat on a gray cosmetic chair and attempted to gentle himself by fixation a heating bag on his stomach. He pronounced he is 66 years aged and that he comes from a busted area of Damascus, a collateral of Syria. His travel was intended by a Air Force of his possess country. The bombs that fell on people’s houses, he said, were paid for with their taxation money. “All these years we gave them a money, and we complained that no one knows what a supervision was doing with it. Now we finally found out,” he pronounced with a far-reaching grin. Hearing it a approach he told it, we had no choice yet to laugh.

The review took place during a tiny clinic—basically, a train 16 block meters large—in a transformation stay for Syrian refugees evading to Europe. The stay is located on a limit between Serbia and Macedonia and is one of many stops on a refugees’ prolonged tour to Western Europe. Two weeks ago, we published here during Tablet an article formed on conversations with dozens of Syrian refugees we met during this camp, who described a horrors now holding place in Syria. But a refugees weren’t a customarily people we met during my five-day revisit to a place. we also got to spend time with a people who I’ve come to call “the painkillers”—doctors, nurses, amicable workers, support workers, and others who come to places like this transformation stay in sequence to offer assistance to those who’ve been tricked by a whole world.

What they can offer doesn’t seem like much. As one support workman told me, “What we’re doing is like giving Advil to a chairman with cancer.” In fact, some of a “painkillers” we met have come to a unhappy finish that what they’re doing is, during a finish of a day, adding to a appalling sum of pang in Syria: Western governments are providing domestic and tactful cover to a Syrian regime and a allies, while during a same time they piously offer aspirin and tents to a refugees tour a destruction that they are sponsoring. It’s a vicious business, yet when a helper in a transformation stay is station in front of a mom who is seeking for assistance given her baby is sick, a discuss over “what are we unequivocally doing here?” seems secondary.

The male with a dim clarity of humor, who laughed about his taxes, came to a sanatorium angry about clever headaches, a bad cough, and outbursts of dizziness. The alloy who examined him pronounced he had a heat and that a best thing for him would be to distortion down for dual days and get some rest. The transformation stay includes a series of large, exhilarated tents where refugees can stay for a night or two, yet unequivocally few of them select to do so: They wish to keep going, toward Germany, always fearful that a borders will close down given of domestic pressures. This is also what this man’s family wanted to do. The doctor, realizing there was no approach to change his mind, pronounced he would give him some pills for pain relief, and something for his cough.

While watchful for his medicine, a 66-year-old studious talked with a amicable workman benefaction during a clinic. The review was in Arabic. They discussed his skeleton for a new life in Germany and how his grandchildren were coping with a formidable journey. At some point, he asked a amicable worker, a green-eyed lady in her early 30s, where she’s from. “You have a Jordanian accent,” he noted.

“I’m Arab ’48,” she replied, regulating a renouned tenure in a Arab universe for describing a Arab-Palestinian adults of Israel—those who were left within a Hebrew state’s domain after a quarrel of 1948. There was a impulse of quiet, during that a aged Syrian male satisfied a definition of what he customarily heard: not customarily that a amicable worker, to whom he had non-stop his heart, was a citizen of an rivalry country, yet also that a alloy who treated him was an Israeli Jew. (“I unexpected accepted what denunciation a amicable workman and a alloy were vocalization between themselves,” he after told me. “It sounded a bit like Arabic, yet also unequivocally different.”) Then he told a story, that held a amicable worker, as good as me, by finish surprise.

“My family is creatively from Tuba,” he said, referring to a tiny Bedouin encampment in northern Israel, nearby a Sea of Galilee. “I was innate in Syria, yet as a child, we grew adult conference stories about a village, and a lands around it.” During Israel’s War of Independence in 1948, a race of Tuba was separate into dual “camps”: Most of a residents motionless to quarrel alongside a baby state of Israel opposite a Arab enemies; yet this man’s family, along with many others in a village, refused to do so and instead left to adjacent Syria. Now, 67 years later, he was here, during a sanatorium in a tiny city in southern Serbia, receiving diagnosis from Israelis.

“For many years, we suspicion that those who left a encampment did a right thing,” a male said. “The Arabs did humour unequivocally badly in Israel. But currently we consider it was a mistake. After what has happened to us in Syria, we have no doubt. Those who stayed in Tuba finished a intelligent decision.”


During my revisit to a transformation camp, we met doctors, nurses, and support workers from many opposite countries, who were partial of a “painkillers” industry. Among them were Germans, Brits, French, Danes, Spaniards, Swiss, Dutch, and also internal Serbs. The many engaging organisation for me to follow, however, was a Israelis: 3 doctors, a nurse, and dual amicable workers, who flew to a transformation stay for a three-week period, doing so on a totally intentional basis. They took time off from their work places, left their families behind in Israel, and came to a place literally “in a center of nowhere” to assistance and support people who are adults of a nation with that Israel is still technically during war.

The doctors we met were Yael from Tel Aviv, Eitan from Be’er Sheva, and Meni from Jerusalem—all in their early 30s. They were assisted by Lotte, a helper operative for Soroka sanatorium in southern Israel, and by dual amicable workers: Ahlam from a encampment of Deir Hana in a Galilee, and Badaria from Jaffa. All of them arrived to a transformation stay on interest of an Israeli charitable support classification called “Natan,” in memory of a late Israeli assent romantic Abie Nathan.

As a names imply, this was a organisation of Arab and Jewish Israelis operative together. Not as a domestic statement, yet simply given it creates a medical diagnosis and romantic support they offer a refugees some-more efficient. “Natan” has been using a sanatorium during a transformation stay given final fall. So far, it has sent 34 doctors, nurses and amicable workers from Israel to assistance a Syrian refugees. Roughly half of these staff members were Israeli-Arabs. Most clinics have an wholly non-Arabic vocalization staff, with a singular translator to make adult for a denunciation difficulties. Since a immeasurable infancy of a refugees pronounce customarily Arabic, a participation of Arabic-speaking veteran staff during a Israeli sanatorium creates a outrageous difference.

Eitan Damari, a alloy from Be’er Sheva, told me, “Before we came here, we had an evidence with some friends over this trip. They pronounced a Syrians would never do something like this for us if it was a other approach around, so given should doctors from Israel come out here and assistance them. Some also used extremist arguments about Arabs. we told them, ‘Look, we can be extremist in politics, everybody is a bit like that these days, yet when it comes to medical treatment, a manners are different. When we see a chairman that needs help, we don’t ask them where they’re from or what’s their religion. You customarily assistance them. That’s what we have to do.’ ”

I watched Eitan and a other “Natan” volunteers operative for 5 days and nights during a tiny clinic. They treated hundreds of people, while we sat in a quandary and took notes, assisting from time to time with Arabic interpretation when there were too many patients for Ahlam and Badaria, a amicable workers, to keep lane of everyone. we counted during slightest 30 babies who arrived during a clinic, as good as some-more than 10 profound women. There were also 7 people on wheelchairs, during slightest three with diabetes, one blind person, and dual who mislaid legs.

“The hardest partial for me is observant a children,” pronounced Meni Amran, a alloy from Jerusalem. His mother recently gave birth to their initial child. “When kin come here with a  ill child, generally a baby, we always have to make veteran compromises that we don’t like doing. What I’d like to tell them is—‘Stay here for a few nights. Let a child nap comfortably, splash prohibited tea, and take a gentle bath.’ But we can’t tell them to do this, initial of all given they’re in a precipitate to strech their destination, and also given a conditions here aren’t unequivocally that good. So, give them something to palliate a pain, to make it easier for a while. It’s distant from perfect, yet it’s a best we can do.”

On my third day during a transformation camp, someone brought a collection of balloons to a clinic. Every child who perceived diagnosis walked out with a balloon during hand. “If it creates them smile, after what they’ve customarily been by for a final weeks, afterwards we have achieved something,” pronounced Lotte Bengal, a nurse. Born in Belgium, she immigrated to Israel some-more than dual decades ago and has been vital in a Negev area ever since. “For a child, this tour is tough emotionally customarily as it is physically, so creation them feel good for a brief time they are here, is unequivocally important” she added.

Most refugees spend between 20 to 30 days on a road, roving trains, buses, and vans all a approach from a Istanbul to Berlin. we asked a series of kin for accede to pronounce their immature children. One thesis that recurred in a interviews was how frightful it was to cranky from Turkey to Greece by boat.

“It was dim and unequivocally cold, and we roughly fell to a H2O given of a wind,” pronounced Mohammad, a 9-year-old child evading with his family from Homs, Syria’s third-largest city. “I was fearful we are all going to die in a water. we don’t know how to swim.” In new months, hundreds of refugees drowned while perplexing to make this passage.

The rest of a outing wasn’t many fun, either: “The troops in Macedonia yelled during us all a time, yet we couldn’t know what they were saying. It’s bad when someone is yelling during we and we don’t know what they want.” So, it’s good to have Arabic-speaking amicable workers during a clinic. It’s also intelligent to have balloons during hand.


Ahlam Ali, a amicable workman who spoke with a male from Tuba, arrived during a transformation stay on a same day we did. In Israel she manages a series of nursing homes for people with mental disorders. As we gathering to Presevo, a tiny limit city hosting a camp, we asked her given she motionless come here for 3 weeks of tough work, that she won’t get paid for. “First of all, given it’s critical to assistance these people—I can’t see what is function to them and not do something, even something small, to assistance them,” she answered. “Besides that, we consider it will be a unequivocally engaging knowledge for me professionally. Trying to yield assistance underneath these circumstances, after what these refugees have left through—it’s a kind of plea that creates we improved and stronger, we hope.”

The definition of Ahlam’s name in Arabic is “dreams.” She was one of a friendliest people we met during a camp, yet we shortly found out there was an unavoidable collision between a lines of work. Her purpose during a sanatorium was to make people feel calm, safe, and comfortable. She was there to assistance a refugees concentration on their evident needs, like removing new diapers for a baby or solution problems in their paperwork. The one thing she wanted them not to consider about was what they’ve left behind: a friends and kin who died in a war, a residence or area that were destroyed, a assault still raging.

The problem, of course, was that my categorical reason for being there was to get a refugees to pronounce about what’s function in Syria right now, tell their stories, and do so in an romantic and minute way. “I don’t consider it’s good for them, to pronounce about this,” she told me after observant one lady roughly cry while pity her memories with me. “I consider it’s still too unpleasant for them.”

My line of invulnerability was that if these stories aren’t told and heard, it will customarily get worse. As I’ve created in my prior article, this is a unequivocally diseased evidence to make, after 5 years of consistent media coverage—and consistent slaughter—in Syria. But Ahlam came to accept it, eventually. “I customarily can’t know given nobody is doing anything to put an finish to this,” she told me one evening, after observant some-more unhappy children in a clinic. “Everyone is articulate about it, yet it’s customarily words. It’s meaningless.” That’s fundamentally what I’m going to write, we told her. And so we reached a still agreement.

The refugees nearing during a “Natan” sanatorium have no thought they are being treated by Israelis. There is no Israeli dwindle or any other black associated to Israel during a clinic. The customarily created participation of Hebrew in a sanatorium are dual A4-sized pages glued to one of a walls, that embody a brief “Hebrew-Farsi Medical Dictionary,” useful for assisting refugees that arrive from Afghanistan and pronounce no Arabic. But a medical staff isn’t creation any bid to censor its’ Israeliness, either. They pronounce between themselves customarily in Hebrew. If a interloper asks, “Where are we from?” they will customarily get a loyal answer. Badaria Halili, a amicable workman from Jaffa, was asked by a series of patients if she’s Palestinian, given of her accent. “Yes,” she replied, “I live in Jaffa.”

One patient, who pronounced his name was Nabeel, told me he famous immediately that a alloy treating him was Israeli. “I was an officer in a Syrian army, in a Golan area,” he explained. “I can brand Hebrew. It’s a denunciation of a enemy.” The final judgment he pronounced with a small smile. Do we still consider we’re enemies? we asked him.

“I change my mind on this doubt all a time,” he replied. “Our biggest rivalry is Iran, not Israel. But who does Israel support in Syria? Some people consider we support a Syrian people. Others contend we cite Assad to stay in power. If we support Assad, we are my enemy. If not, we can be like brothers.”

I sensitive him that unfortunately, we don’t have a answer to his question. Israel’s policy, we explained briefly, is fundamentally not to get concerned in a Syrian mess. “That’s a large mistake,” he said. “Do we wish Iran and Hezbollah to control Syria? Because that’s what is going to happen. Why doesn’t Israel assistance us?”

Well, we noted, some Israelis do help—you customarily met them. “They are unequivocally good people,” he replied. “I never believed what we were taught during a military, that Israelis are like vicious animals. But I’m revelation you, Israel will be contemptible if Iran and Assad win.” We split with a accessible handshake. we could have told him about Israel’s fear that Assad’s tumble could somehow lead to even larger chaos. But we didn’t. Not customarily given he had to run to a bus, yet also given we remembered what Ahlam told me a day earlier: It’s tough adequate for these people; there is no need to make them feel even some-more depressed.


Einav Levy, a margin coordinator for “Natan,” was a funniest chairman we hung around with during my visit. Levy, 35, from Tel Aviv, is obliged for all a volunteers need from medical apparatus to sleeping arrangements to carrying a good time between shifts. He also has to understanding with a internal authorities, a government of a stay and a other charitable and support groups operative there. He’s a kind of chairman who gets things finished yet too many questions.

“This is one of many gentle places I’ve worked in,” he told me, to my surprise. “I’m sleeping in a exhilarated unit with electricity, there are grocery stores and restaurants here, we have a car, and there are many gas stations to select from. In a universe of charitable aid, those things are distant from a given.” Einav has worked formerly in places like Haiti and sub-Saharan Africa. He is what Israelis like to call Hayisraeli Hayafe (“the flattering Israeli”)—he served as an officer in a IDF paratroopers’ brigade, volunteers for opposite amicable causes during home, and shows a good sides of Israel to others around a world.

But behind his “let’s get it done” persona and good clarity of humor, Einav is confronting a tough dignified dilemma. “I’m not certain if what we’re doing here isn’t customarily partial of prolonging a war,” he pronounced in one of a conversations. “I’m not articulate customarily about a organisation specifically, yet about a whole attention of charitable support that’s operative on this issue. You have a quarrel that’s going on for 5 years now. You have millions of refugees and millions some-more who will substantially arrive. The universe is ignoring a roots of a problem. And a purpose is to keep it underneath control; to keep a predicament tolerable.” Not for a Syrians, of course, yet for everybody else.

On my final night during a camp, we was sitting in a sanatorium when unexpected a proffer for a internal support organisation detonate in and yelled—“A lady is about to have a baby! Come quick!” Einav, together with Lotte Bengal a nurse, came out running, following a support workman into a prolonged line of refugees during a opening to a camp. Hundreds of people were station there, close and yet any space for movement. It was unfit to see where a profound lady was. Einav pennyless into a crowd, perplexing to make room while looking for her. After flitting 6 lines of people, he finally got her and rushed her to a clinic.

The lady was 8 months pregnant, and started feeling clever pains, that finished her consider that her baby was about to come out. The doctors put her on one of dual beds in a clinic, while Badaria attempted to ease her down.

A few mins later, her father and 4-year-old son arrived during a clinic. “Your mother will be fine,” he was told by Dr. Amran. But a sanatorium was packed with other patients, so he and a child waited outside. we asked him if he disposed articulate to me while they were station there. “There is zero improved we can do,” he replied. He pronounced his name was Ahmad. We spoke in English many of a time, that he pronounced was good given he indispensable to use and urge his control of a language.

“I’m Sunni. My mother is Shi’a. We adore any other,” he told me. “Many people don’t like it that we’re together. But we are happy. We don’t caring what other people think.” They lived in Jordan for a final integrate of years, as refugees, yet motionless to pierce to Europe given “the wars in Syria and Iraq are going to widespread to a whole Middle East. We can’t stay there. It’s not a place for people like us.”

He forked during his immature son, who was examination videos of my dog on my Smartphone while perplexing to embrace a barks. “I wish my child to grow adult in a nation where anyone can marry anyone else. Sunni, Shi’a, Christian, Jewish, not an issue.” His son handed me a phone, given a video he watched had ended. we put adult a new one. Ahmad kept talking. “It gives me wish to accommodate people like a doctors in this clinic,” he said. “I’m happy to see there are such good people in a world. we roughly forgot there are people like that.”

The review with Ahmad assured me that Einav was wrong, even yet he was right. While it’s loyal that for Western governments, “the painkillers” are mostly a car for not doing anything, that’s not how a Syrian refugees knowledge a caring that they receive. For a refugees we met during a transformation camp, people like Ahlam, Badaria, Eitan, Yael, Meni, Einav, and Lotte are everything. It would have been many better, of course, if Western governments had been means or peaceful to see Assad’s regime for a ruthless sight that it is before millions of Syrians were gassed, shelled, and inebriated out of their homes. But sometimes, a customarily medicine accessible is Advil.


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