Israel sends home Gaza?s doctor of mercy - Scotsman
- Israel sends home Gaza?s doctor of mercy
ROSS DUNN IN JERUSALEM
ISRAEL has deported the head of a charitable fund that
organised heart surgery and other operations for
Palestinian children by Israeli doctors.
Jonathan Miles, a US citizen, who founded the Israeli
non-profit organisation Light to the Nations, was told
he was no longer welcome in the country.
The move has disturbed Christian groups, as well as
Israelis and Palestinians, who had praised Miles for
his humanitarian efforts in the midst of a deep
conflict. He had been working with Save a Child?s
Heart, the largest programme in the world providing
free, urgent heart surgery for children in poor and
He originally came to the region in 1990 as a
journalist, before moving into a new role, in which he
would travel back and forth between Israel and the
For two years, he lived with his family in Khan Younis
in the Gaza Strip but moved to Jerusalem last year,
following Israel?s repeated military incursions into
He facilitated the transfer of Palestinian babies from
Gaza to Israeli hospitals and also brought otherwise
unavailable medicine back to the territory.
He raised money abroad for the cause and set up a
system of referrals for newborn Palestinian babies in
the West Bank who needed heart surgery in Israel.
Miles was supported by Israeli doctors, and hospitals,
which carried out the surgery for Palestinian children
at a fraction of the normal cost.
"One of Jonathan?s contributions was the good vibes he
created with the Palestinian families whose children
we treated," said Israeli cardiologist, Dr Akiva
Tamir, one of the volunteers in the programme.
"It takes a lot for parents from Gaza in an atmosphere
so full of hate to bring us their children to treat.
Jonathan really persuaded them that they can trust
But the Israeli authorities clearly did not trust
Miles. When he arrived last week from a fund-raising
trip, he was barred entry, kept in a holding cell and
The first sign of trouble came in April when he was
asked to leave the country by the interior ministry,
along with his wife Michelle, and five of the couple?s
It appears that the ministry was angered by his
decision to apply for residency status. The ministry
is known for its strong opposition to granting such
status to non-Jews.
A spokeswoman for the interior ministry, said that
Miles and his family had been asked to leave because
they had been living in Israel illegally. "They wanted
a permanent status," she said. "But there is no reason
to grant them this."
Miles?s attorney, Ezriel Levi, said that the
government?s decision was reprehensible. "Perhaps the
present interior minister believes that helping sick
Palestinian children is not a worthy aim. As a citizen
of this country I can only be sorry about that."
Many Israeli doctors share his view that medicine must
be kept above politics. Among them are Dr Shmuel
Yurfest, one of the surgeons who operated to save the
life of Palestinian teenager, Zayden Zayden, an
18-year-old, severely injured when his suicide bomb
went off before he reached his target - a hospital
near the central Israeli town of Afula.
Had he succeeded, Yurfest knows he would have been
treating his victims instead.
"During the operation, you act professionally and only
afterwards you think of the consequences," he said.
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