“Our society needs to heal. We are mixed, and this is what makes us beautiful and special. But we need to focus on what we have in common, not on our differences. We have to think about our shared destiny.”
This is the hope of Dr. Shaden Salameh-Youssef, currently the director of the Emergency Medicine Department at Hadassah Hospital Mount Scopus and the first Arab woman to head an ER in Israel. She is convinced that medical professionals can serve as an example and inspire all of society to come together.
In a recent interview with the Jerusalem Post:
When Dr. Shaden Salameh-Youssef was 10 years old, she had to call for an ambulance for her sick grandfather. “I barely spoke Hebrew, but my parents were busy taking care of him, so I had to do it,” she said.
Almost 30 years later, Salameh remembers this episode as a defining moment in her decision to become a doctor. “I felt so helpless, and I realised how important it could be to have a doctor in the family in case someone got sick,” she told The Jerusalem Post in her office in the Emergency Medicine Department of Hadassah-University Medical Centre on Jerusalem’s Mount Scopus. “When I was a little older, I started to be attracted by the general idea of helping others.”
To pursue her mission, Salameh-Youssef left the little village of Turan, near Nazareth, to study medicine at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She has lived in Jerusalem ever since, and it is where she did her residency in internal and emergency medicine, obtained a master’s degree in health administration and began her career.
Three years ago, Salameh-Youssef became the first Arab-Israeli woman in the country to head an emergency department, supervising 10 doctors and 40 nurses, as well as paramedics and nonmedical staff, including Jews, Arabs, Christians and Muslims.
“The experience of moving to Jerusalem was difficult,” she said. “I knew Hebrew, but not as well as Arabic. I was far away from my community, but I was also determined to meet the other.
“Many of my roommates over the course of the years were Jewish, as well as many of my friends. We were all united in the goal of saving others. Working together for us was very natural because we shared the same values. This is the same way I feel about the atmosphere at our hospital today.”
Salameh-Youssef said she was concerned about ethnic riots that are disrupting coexistence in mixed Arab-Jewish cities.
“It is very sad,” she said. “I’m against violence in any form, and I think that we are seeing many issues in all sectors of Israeli society, including forms of violence not related to Jewish-Arab tensions, such as violence against women.”
However, Salameh-Youssef said she also maintained a positive attitude. Salameh-Youssef cited her medical staff as an example.
“Outside, Jews are scared of Arabs; Arabs are scared of Jews,” she said. “But here we manage as one family. Sometimes we also solve tensions between patients coming from different communities. We do not always succeed, but very often we do.”
Nevertheless, Salameh-Youssef said the diversity of Israeli society is what makes it special.
Her hope is that medical workers can be an inspiration for all of society.
“We are here, all together, Jews and Arabs, of all religions, working, showing up for every medical emergency and leaving everything behind to take care of the sick,” Dr. Salameh-Youssef said. “We can be a light, a candle shining in the darkness.”
Click here – to read the full story by Rossella Tercatin, which first appeared in the Jerusalem Post on 18 May.
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