Pediatrician Brings Ideals of Co-existence From the Middle East
November 16, 2006 8:00 PM
In the current news media, peace between the Jews and the Arabs can seem like a far-fetched fantasy to some, but on Nov. 16, Dr. Sigal Chirug, an Israeli-born pediatrician and a resident of Ma’alot, a mixed Jewish-Arab town in the Western Galilee, had another message.
Coordinated by the San Francisco Hillel and the Jewish Community Relations Council, JCRC, Dr. Chirug spoke to a small group of SF State students about co-existence, not only as a possibility, but as a reality.
“We’re making co-existence a reality not a dream,” Dr. Chirug said about her experiences working as a pediatrician for Me’uhedet Medical Services, a national healthcare provider in Ma’alot, and in a clinic in the Arab village of Fasuta.
When the Israel-Lebanon conflict broke out in July 2006, Dr. Chirug and her husband stayed in Western Galilee.
“It was very sudden, unpleasant and surprising,” Dr. Chirug said.
Everything closed and people were encouraged to leave the area. Each day, hundreds of bombs fell like rain over Galilee, damaging or destroying buildings, houses and roads, she said. Dr. Chirug found herself working in Ma’alot under emergency conditions for five weeks.
Without orders and despite the danger, she continued to travel to, and work in Fasuta two times a week. There she found that, unlike the residents in Ma’alot, most of the Arabs did not leave their homes. They wanted the family to stick together, or they may have felt it was safer to stay.
In Fasuta, she met families with children and she was able to continue her work as a pediatrician.
Most the people who stayed behind in Ma’alot were elderly patients, and despite the Jewish-Arab tensions elsewhere, Dr. Chirug said she didn’t look for conflict.
“There are so many conflicts between the Jews themselves,” Dr. Chirug said.
And while working with Arab families, she said she felt a lot of appreciation and respect for them and from them.
“We don’t have to share opinions, but we can talk about it and still be friends,” Dr. Chirug said.
Dona Standel, 19, an SF Hillel Koret Intern, and sophomore public relations major, organized the event. Standel said she was very happy with the turnout and was especially pleased when two representatives from the General Union of Palestine Students (GUPS) showed up.
“It’s important for everyone to get both sides,” Standel said.
Sheyla Aucar, 26, a senior biology major, said it was interesting to hear actual first hand accounts of people’s experiences in Israel.
“You don’t hear that everyday,” Aucar said. “There’s not just fighting, there’s peace.”
And as Dr. Chirug attributed the peaceful relationships between the Arabs and the Jews in Western Galilee to the people, Standel echoed Dr. Chirug’s message.
“It’s important for everyone to remember that co-existence is possible,” she said.
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