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Joy, Sadness and Hope – A Meeting of Palestinian and Israeli Families

A few weeks ago I took Yakoub's family to meet with the relatives of Noam Naor in Ramla. You may remember that, less than a year ago, Yakoub received a kidney transplant. Noam a three-year-old boy had fallen from the balcony of his family’s apartment in Ramla. The dreadful head injury resulted in brain death. His family decided to donate his organs and Yakoub was the only one on the waiting list who had the particular blood type. Yakoub had previously undergone dialysis for more than seven years, as there were no suitable donors among his family members. Yakoub lives with his family in the village of Yatta in the Palestinian Authority.

The kidney transplant was successful and Yakoub no longer requires dialysis. Immediately after the transplant surgery Suhaila and Samir, Yakoub's parents, asked to meet the family that donated the organs in order to express their gratitude for the kidney donation. And a few weeks ago the meeting was arranged.

The trip from Jerusalem to Ramle was tense, and it felt as if it would never end. Yakoub and his twin sister Sarah and their parents came to the get-together. And in Ramla, Noam’s parents also waited, with tension in the air. Noam's father stood in the parking lot. At first they shook hands with some hesitation and then with warmth. Noam’s mother was waiting in the apartment, and the rest of the family gradually assembled. Noam's family talked about the child – happy and smiling. Yakoub's family talked about their lives – years of hospitals, surgery and medications.

The visit lasted from morning until late in the evening. The families leafed through photo albums. They talked about themselves, asking about the families, laughing and crying. The reality of life in Israel provides very little opportunity for a meeting of a Palestinian family with an Israeli family, and often such gatherings are charged or dominated by estrangement. But the two families have shown that there may be another reality, one that is more truthful. Many feelings that were expressed at the meeting – infinite sadness on the death of a child and the excitement that a part of him remains alive. The joy of saving the life of a 10-year-old child and the pain over the loss of the other. Hesitation, suspicion, contact, and warmth, and perhaps most of all – hope.

Alona Baidani-Auerbach


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