Treating Iraqi Kids in Israel
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Aria, an 18-month-old baby, underwent a successful heart operation in Israel. (Times photo)
CAIRO — Some Iraqi parents are ready to go anywhere, even to Tel Aviv, to save their babies, while others insist Israel remains the enemy no matter what.
"I can honestly tell you that I didn't worry for a moment about where or who will operate on my daughter," Mohamed, a 37-year-old Kurdish aid worker, told The Times
on Sunday, May 25.
"Nor did I worry about the reaction of my family and relatives."
Mohammed borrowed thousands of dollars to pay for an urgent heart surgery for his 22-month baby Souz, but doctors in Iraq and Jordan told him there was nothing they could do for her.
When he heard his baby could be treated in Israel, he did not hesitate.
"Anyone who blames me should put themselves in my place and live for nearly two years watching his daughter die in front of his eyes, and then tell me what he'd have done."
Iraq's leading cardiac clinic was burnt down during the 2003 US-led invasion of the country.
Since then, heart operations have not been available.
There are eleven Iraqi children being treated in Israel, sponsored by Save a Child's Heart (SACH), a humanitarian organization founded in Israel in 1996 and supported by Christian charity groups.
Some parents still fear the stigma of being treated in Israel.
Mustafa, 4, has undergone two heart operations in Israel in six months.
"My only fear, which spoils my joy at my son's escape from death, is the revenge my family can expect when we go back to Iraq," says his mother.
Other parents rule out any possibility of getting help from Israel.
"We've been foes of Israel since before we were born," Shatha, whose two-year-old baby Sara needs surgery for a defective heart valve, told The Times
She has turned down an offer to get her baby treated at the Edith Wolfson medical center in Israel.
"We firmly believe that they are our enemies. You can't change this overnight."
She is now planning to have the operation for little Sara performed in Algeria whose government has agreed to pay for 14 Iraqi children to be treated there rather than be sent to Israel.
Shatha's Kurdish friend has also rejected a similar offer of a free heart surgery for her son Ahmed in Israel.
"Now I can sleep with a clear conscience," she told The Times
, requesting anonymity.
"I'm able to hold my head up high and not be ashamed by having my son treated in Algeria."