Dr. Aziz Darawshe, the former head of emergency medicine at the Emek Medical Center in Afula, has recently been appointed the director of emergency medicine at Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem, known as one of the best hospitals in the Middle East region. Darawshe earned his reputation for medical excellence while working at the Emek Medical Center, where consumer satisfaction polls performed by the Clalit Health Services rated his team as among the best. An oasis for Jewish-Arab coexistence, nearly 40 percent of the medical staff at Emek Medical Center was Arab and every one worked together to save both Jewish and Arab lives, without discrimination, regardless of the political situation.

According to Darawshe, “The integration of Arabs into the medical field has been impressive in this country. In the health system, Arabs and Jews get along excellently on an individual level. It’s an oasis. […] Since the establishment of the State of Israel, this has been so in hospitals and health funds and in Education Ministry institutions. […] The rate of Arab pharmacists is about 40 percent.” Darawshe is well-respected by his Jewish colleagues, who frequently invite him to their weddings, bar mitzvahs, brit milahs, and funerals of loved ones. He is known and respected throughout the region.

Darawshe studied medicine at the University of Sofia in Bulgaria, where he specialized in cardiology, emergency medicine, and internal medicine. He also possesses a masters’ degree from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in health management systems. Additionally, since 2010, Darawshe has been the chairman of the Israel Society for Urgent Medicine and as of 2011, an honorary member of the American College of Emergency Physicians. He has also published over 20 academic articles on emergency medicine in leading international journals and has spoken at numerous medical conferences abroad. Furthermore, he is fluent in many languages, ranging from Hebrew to Arabic to Bulgarian. He even speaks Yiddish and a little bit of Amharic (spoken in Ethiopia).

However, it was not a given that Darawshe would end up this successful. His mother was illiterate and his father barely completed the fourth grade. Nevertheless, his family prioritized their children having what they could not have themselves. Out of all of his siblings, there are three physicians, a dentist, an engineer, and five sisters who attended university. Furthermore, Darawshe’s wife Mona is a math teacher and his eldest son has a medical degree from Jerusalem, while Darawshe has another son who is studying in Germany. His other two children are still fairly young.

Known as a political moderate, Darawshe is keenly interested in Jewish history and has visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial on numerous occasions. He asserted regarding the Jewish peoples history of suffering, “You have suffered for millennia – including the destruction of the First Temple and the Second Temple, the Inquisition, the Holocaust – which was just yesterday – and many other eras. The Jewish people suffered as if they were born to suffer. Ironically, they suffered least in Spain when the Muslims were in power. Of all the Sephardic meanderings, the community’s highest level of culture and education was in Iraq. There were discrimination and pogroms, but the experience of Jews with Muslims was better than in Europe.”

He continued, “We have to build trust together – and it won’t happen through the Knesset. We must start in the infrastructure, in daily work, in the field. For many years I have believed in two nations for two peoples in this land. It would have huge benefits to both sides, economic and others. The Israeli Arab population has an important potential; it can serve as a link to the Arab world.” By healing the sick, without discriminating based on nationality, Darawshe is working towards Jewish-Arab coexistence within the State of Israel.

By Rachel Avraham