Thursday, June 16, 2011

My Son's Recent Israeli Hospital Experience - Interesting and Subtly Different

As a former pulpit rabbi, I have a lot of experience with hospitals, having spent a great deal of time in them visiting patients. I wouldn't say that I "enjoyed" the hospitals per se - no one likes being sick. But I did find the visits usually meaningful and helpful, and liked helping my members.
This week, my son needed to have minor surgery, so I spent half a day in Assaf Harofeh hospital near Rechovot. It was a surprisingly positive experience both personally and medically. The staff was terrific; the doctors seemed quite nice and competent, and my son is doing great.
But, during the recovery, I had some time to wander around the youth floor (which was pretty empty, thank God), and a few things caught my attention.
I think that in the United States you just tune it out, but I forgot just how Christian most American hospitals are, or at least the ones that I frequented. From the crucifix on the wall to the pastor making the rounds to the church channel on the free TV, religion pervades much of US medical system. This never really bothered me. It was something that you took for granted; just part of the landscape that I simply tuned out.
But in Israel, Judaism pervades pretty much every aspect of life here, and the hospital is no exception. In the waiting area, instead of finding a New Testament, there was a stack of Tehillim, and even a used gemara. There was a place to light candles (which I must admit I've never seen used for health, but who knows - maybe it's a Sefardi thing.) There was a dedicated area to light Shabbat candles (in the US we just used electric.) Everyone ate the regular hospital food; there was no "kosher" meals, as everything is kosher throughout the hospital. None of these things should shock anyone. None of them seem out of place. But, coming from my very different experience, they stood out to me.
Regarding health insurance: I didn't pay the hospital a shekel. You call your snif, and they arrange the paperwork authorizing the surgery. We downloaded the form, and I gave it to the cashier at the hospital before the surgery, and that was it.
From a technological/medical perspective, the hospital seemed well-fitted. Granted, the children's hospital beds were "manual" - you could raise and lower them, but only by hand. But they seemed to have all the necessary scanners, machines and the like - although the IV machine used by the child next to my son was donated by some Jews somewhere in the world - I think Denver.
And there was also Wifi throughout the building - which was a lifesaver for me, as I a lot of work done, but was also critically important for my son. I never really turned on the TV, but as soon as he felt well enough to be bored, I simply tuned him into YouTube, where he watched a seemingly endless roll of old cartoons, from Bugs Bunny to Woody Woodpecker to Spiderman. (He didn't like the Flintstones. I think he's still too young.) It's all there! Thanks Youtube! You were a lifesaver.
And thanks, of course, to the Creator for keeping my son's minor issue minor. Thank God he's on the mend, and seems primed to return to Gan soon.