A Cry From the Heart: What to think about when the headlines announce a terror attack

This essay, written by an Israeli emergency-room doctor is dedicated to victims of terror from the streets of Israel to Dahab in the Sinai to the regularly bloodied streets of Iraqi cities. [I have not corrected the spelling and grammar — from his keyboard to you.] Hat tip Avi Zuber, HDL.

A letter from the heart, Israel 04/2006

This is not a political letter, rather I would like to call it a letter of impression, an impression of a situation that the end is far from what I can imagine, it is a letter describing a situation which I wouldn’t wish on any of you, a situation far from what most of the logic people would realize, and unfortunately I don’t believe it has a solution.

It started Monday 17.04.06.

I started my day as usual at 06.30, waking up to a morning of what we call here “Hol Hamoed”- which is the week after Passover, our religious holiday, and went to the hospital, to be on time( something which is not so familiar to me in the past few months…I’m always late to work ).

This day was suppose to be special in a sense that I had to work together with the Chief of Internal Medicine ward, we were suppose to work together until 1300 and then I was due to go to my scheduled duty in the ER.

As you know me; I love internal medicine, it is the field of medicine where I think one can use his knowledge and work with his mind… but on the other hand I like the manual work of medicine – Surgery … (or as most of the people that I work with say- I have the charm of a surgeon but the mind and patience of an internist…), hence this day was a kind of stressful to me, I thought that it was sort of a test which the Chief will be putting me into, to see if I can fit into his ward.

As the day went, I think I managed quite ok, I knew some of his questions, and some other ones I didn’t know, but the time was short(as it was a holiday and we worked half days during the holidays) and I had to go to my duty in the ER at 1300.

I stayed a bit more in the ward to help him, and finished my work there around 1330, and I rushed to the ER to start my duty.

I arrived to the ER, and started to do my work; I kind of love the work in the ER, it has it charm (at least during day time and not at 0400 when the stupid people start to come with the most stupid complaints…), it has its action, and of course for me as a young and motivated doctor, it gives an immediate satisfaction.

And then it all started;

Exactly at 1340 we got the call that a suicide bomber hit a crowded Falafel Restaurant in Jaffa, a part of Tel-Aviv down town….

Immediately we started to evacuate the injured and sick people that were in walking position from our ER, and started to arrange the Hall for the arrival of the wounded from the Terror attack.

Mostly from that moment I remember an old lady, in her 80’s, which fell a few hours earlier in the street and cracked her head on the floor, getting an ugly scar on her forehead and an hematoma around her eye, she waited patiently to get her CT scan, and as she heard the terrible news, she immediately told me that she is OK, and she can wait, and walked to the other side of the ER!

So there we were, waiting for the first ambulance to arrive, “cleaning” the ER from those who can leave, waiting, preparing, and mostly I think that most of us were thinking….

Slowly slowly ( it took something like 10 minutes until the 1st ambulance arrived, but it seemed much more then that) the ER was starting to look like in the movies- the surgeons, anesthesiologist, vascular and orthopedic surgeons came down, nurses rushed to prepare what could be prepared (infusions, intubation gear, chest tubes, medications…. Etc.), and we were waiting and thinking- WHY???? Why for god sakes should a stupid thing like this happen? I can accept army to army conflicts, I can somehow accept war; I can understand a civil resistance, but I cant and wont understand why a Pearson, (they said he was less then 18) would walk into a crowded restaurant in the middle of the day and blow himself up and kill innocent people!!!

As the 1st ambulance arrived we all rushed and started to work, there I was treating the body guard of the restaurant, he stopped the terrorist with his own body, you can imagine in what state he was, we fought for him, but unfortunately he didn’t make it.

Then we moved to the 2nd patient, he was around his 40’s, and seemed Ok (i.e., OK in a sense that he had suffered a big open fracture on his leg, and he was suppose to undergo a huge orthopedic operation later), we started to examine him, and then he crashed …., we presumed that he had suffered a massive blast injury, and rushed him immediately to the OR, where they operated on him, unfortunately he didn’t make it as well…. , later on I read the newspaper that said that he was protecting his 2 children with his own body (luckily they only suffered minor injuries).

Then I moved on to the another patient, there was a big drama around her, when I arrived I saw that the chief of surgery moved back immediately after opening her chest, and another senior Dr started open chest compressions; she had suffered Aorta tears, and other blast injuries, she was then rushed into the OR.

After these 3 patient we were called to the orthopedic ward, were a survivor from the attack arrived, she was cleared earlier by FAST, but suddenly she started to have abdominal pain, so we examined her, and took her immediately to the OR, after opening the Peritoneum we searched for the injury, searched the intestine, and there it was, a screw was stuck in her descending colon, A SCREW!!! It is unbelievable, what a monster would build a device like this: explosives, metals, screw- who can explain this to me??? A FUCKING SCREW!!!

We finished the operation and then she continued to her orthopedic and vascular part of the operation.

At this stage I first noticed my watch, the time was 1800, and we were working for the past 5 hours, and didn’t even notice how the time flew by.

I returned to the ER, passing the Hugh crowd of families, friends outside of the OR, trying not to look, or get stuck by one of them to answer questions that I couldn’t, and mostly don’t want to answer….

I’ll spare you the rest of my duty details; you can imagine that when I went out from the hospital the next day around 1100, I was like a ZOMBI….

On my way home, I stopped by and bought a newspaper, to read about what had happened, and then I saw them, the faces, the smiling, happy pictures of the people who were killed in the attack I saw how they usually looked like and not how they looked like lying on my ER table, thanks to this devil (I don’t know of a different word that can describe him). This devil that destroyed everything for 9 families, and several other families, which their relatives only went to eat lunch in a Falafel Restaurant, on a sunny holiday afternoon!

I know that we are not saints as well, I know that our IDF hurts innocent people as well, but one thing I know for sure, I was a soldier, I faced a few situations as well, but I/we did it against army/ guerillas fighters, we tried to decrease the amount of innocent casualties to ZERO, we canceled operation, we maintained casualties among our soldiers just to avoid hurting the innocents, we NEVER and will not EVER aim to hit the innocent!!! In a war there are unwanted casualties, but going to explode yourself in the middle of a crowded restaurant is not war, it is something beyond that, it is something words cannot describe!!!

Unfortunately there is not a visible solution, leaders have not been able to put this conflict to an end for more then a decade now, and if you ask me, I don’t think they will be able to for as long as we are dealing with terrorists (Arafat was a terrorist, Hamas, Hezbollah, El Kaida are terrorists in mask of resistance parties), only when the civilized world, will unite and work against these animals, and only when we the small people, will put an end to this, try to stop the vicious cycle and only when You- my friends who sit there and talk with your friends, families telling them what an unbelievable situation this is, describing to them how easy it is to loose everything that you have and love, only then will people know, and maybe then will start to do something to stop these monsters.

Unfortunately the media doesn’t describe the events as they are, sometime it is a “nicer” picture of a tank entering a small village, how the “BIG” and “EVIL” Israeli army is against the poor Palestinian, I agree; but believe me — the things that I saw during those 6 hours in the ER/ OR/ family waiting rooms, is not something that the media should be filming, and if it would have been filmed, it would have left an impact 7 times much more then a tank driving in the 1st street of Gaza.

I want to finish this letter in an optimistic pray, that those who were severely injured will be better soon, and hopefully the white dove signaling Peace will be flying again here in ISRAEL…..

You can FWD my mail to your friends, maybe by this way this war can be solved.

All the best

Ory Wiesel

11 Responses to A Cry From the Heart: What to think about when the headlines announce a terror attack

  1. igout says:

    I’m not Jewish, so forgive me if this comes across as insensitive. I’m just being a Dutch uncle.
    There won’t be peace until one side or the other vanishes. The Islamopaths know it. Do the Israelis? Or is there some post-holocaust inhibition in them that blocks such bad thoughts about needful measures?

    PS: RL, can you translate?
    Igout — good train of csns. responses

  2. RL says:

    pre- and post-holocaust inhibitions. jews are pained by the genocidal passages in their bible and don’t want to think that it’s a “exterminate or be exterminated” struggle if only because when it’s 12 million vs 1.2 billion, it’s not a fight you want to take on. but it’s more than that. jews, by both ethical commitments and sitz-im-leben as the perpetual minority, prefer positive-sum outcomes. “why can’t we all just get along?”

    there’s an interesting post on this subject by Dennis Praeger today:
    on Why are so many Jews Liberal?”. He’s not sympathetic to the trend which he sees, especially these days, as counter-empirical (ie most of the Jews enemies are on the left), but he still raises interesting point.

    but i think you can see from this post by Dr. Wiesel, that it’s more interesting to heal than to destroy. of course that means shifting from the zero-sum world of “your joy is my sorrow, your gain is my loss” to the positive-sum world of “your well being makes us all better off.” that’s my reading of the blessing to abraham: those who bless you will be blessed (ie those who enter into positive sum relations — a blessing is wishing someone else good — will prosper (eg America); those who curse you will be cursed (eg the Arabs in the later 2oth century after kicking out their Jews).

    It’s not by accident that Mr Spock developed the Vulcan salute based on the priestly blessing in Judaism.

    PS. train (should have been stream) of consciousness (or train of thought). not clear… sorry.

  3. A Cry From the Heart

    On this Yom Ha Shoah, I want to bring your attention to an amazing article written by Orly Wiesel, an emergency room Doctor in Israel. It comes from a superp blog The Augean Stables which was brought to my attention…

  4. igout says:

    Fascinating, as Spock used to say.
    I would have thought that the violences of the Old Testament would be viewed as works of God, or, at least, as Israel’s chansons de geste. Every nation needs them to stimulate the animal spirits, which is why I don’t mind those stupid Rambo movies for us Americans.
    Also, might the historic ‘sitz im leben’ you mentioned offer dhimmitude as a thinkable way out of this impass for some Isrealis? By extension, per Praeger, is that why so many leftish types in the West won’t fight? They have that DNA?
    Dr Wiesel is a saint in this bloody old world of ours, but I can’t go along. Those animal spirits again.

  5. Chaya says:

    What can be said here? I am just so proud to belong to the Jewish people and to have moved here to Israel some twenty years ago. I just wish that our abilities could better be used to cure diseases (which they currently are) and help feed the world (which is also going on). What a waste! These Islamic fanatics are throwing away their lives for absolutely nothing! And they are only bringing misery to those they leave behind – on both sides.

  6. RL says:

    Response to Igout (in regular) RL (in italic).

    Fascinating, as Spock used to say.
    I would have thought that the violences of the Old Testament would be viewed as works of God, or, at least, as Israel’s chansons de geste. Every nation needs them to stimulate the animal spirits, which is why I don’t mind those stupid Rambo movies for us Americans.

    again fascinating. on the contrary, as i said, it’s a matter of embarrassment. i understand what you mean, about the rambo movie. one of the more interesting stories i read, back during the lebanese civil war is that this movie theatre owner had to close down because palestinians would come to watch rambo and shoot their kalishnikovs off into the ceiling.

    Also, might the historic ’sitz im leben’ you mentioned offer dhimmitude as a thinkable way out of this impass for some Israelis?

    do you mean here that for some israelis, given the past experience of submission and reluctance to fight, they can conceive of dhimmitude as an option? if that’s what you mean, it’s already true of the ultra-orthodox “Neturei Karta” who support the Palestinians. (by the way one of their reasons for refusing to recognize israel is that “jews should not rule over other people,” and since sovereignty forces you to rule over others (the occupation)… forces you to appeal to the animal spirits, it’s not for jews.)

    the zionists, however, are by definition not given to dhimmitude — which is why the arabs say, “until the zionists, we got on fine with our jews.” the left post-zionists, however, with their overwhelming desire for peace seemingly at any cost (Oslo Syndrome) and their reluctance to engage in unnecessary violence are redefining things. their moral perfectionism, their readiness to take responsibility and blame themselves for anything (eg al Durah), has created an opening for a new kind of dhimmitude.

    By extension, per Praeger, is that why so many leftish types in the West won’t fight? They have that DNA?

    yes. and according to the lecture some of heard tonight by alain finkielkraut (more on that in posts), it’s in part due to holocaust guilt. after the holocaust the europeans became terrified of themselves, and so to make amends, felt they had to “treat everyone equally.” so they discovered the virtues of vulnerability and trust (and so could form the EU from the collection of states previously endemically at war), at the same time as they also found an enemy who, both in demopathic and openly hostile forms, is dedicated to making the most of those vulnerabilities.

    that’s part of the irony of the “strategic choice” of arab allies over israelis that the Mearsheimer-Walt paper also suggests. it turns its back on the architects of positive-sum accomplishments (and vulnerabilities), and embraces those who play by the hardest zero-sum rules. essentially what the europeans are doing with eurabia, and W-M recommend, is trading an ally who’s got your back for an ally that will stab you in the back. it’s pretty amazingly stupid. but if you’re leading thinkers are afraid to say something as blunt as i just did, lest everyone accuse you of racism, then you’re going to say and do some pretty stupid things.

    Dr Wiesel is a saint in this bloody old world of ours, but I can’t go along. Those animal spirits again.

    i understand. charles jacobs says that jewish moral perfectionism has also struck the european elites. in an ironic sense, after beating up the israelis morally — especially after al durah and the outbreak of the second intifada (but already in the first one) — the europeans set an impossible standard for themselves, one that has come back to haunt them. and the eagerness of the israeli moral perfectionists like betselem to embrace the criticisms, has only made things worse.

  7. dymphna says:

    Am I missing something here??

    This amazingly surreal story of trauma and death issued forth from G-d oly knows what depth of evil, and no one addresses the pain in this letter from the doctor — or even his self-deprecating humor in the face of the effects of others’ hatred toward himself and his fellows???

    Who on G-d’s green earth gives a sh** what some talking head thinks? Where is your moral outrage, commenters? What action does looking at the face of evil compel you to? Do you simply say something clever, or erudite or nuanced and then click off the site?

    Soul murder.

  8. RL says:

    thank you dymphna for your passion, and for reminding us about basics. some of us who went through the wave of suicide terror from 2001/2 may have compassion fatigue. we have put our heads down and determined to fight this horror as effectively as we can, and sometimes it leads to lack of sensitivity.

    in fact once my daughter got angry with me and pedro for laughing at some of the things we read (like noam chomsky), even as we described a very bleak landscape (in no small part thanks to the prominence of people who think like chomsky). she had just been working on darfur and found our lack of seriousness deeply upsetting.

    but i beg you to be a bit more indulgent with us if we seem insensitive. maybe we just express our pain differently, but i think it does make sense to give a sh** as you so eloquently put it, about what some talking heads have to say, since without solutions, this kind of stuff will just happen more and more, and eventually you too will get compassion fatigue even as the problem becomes more immediate.


  9. […] be. The Augean Stables who’s fascinating France posts I caught last month featured a […]

  10. An Israeli doctor’s “after action report”

    It’s not really an after-action report, it’s an email. David Paulin describes it like this:

    An emotional letter from a young Israeli physician who treated victims of the April 17th suicide bombing in Tel Aviv is remarkable for what it lac…

  11. […] ibe him).” David’s got a great essay about it. Also read the full letter here at Auge […]

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