The love of Israel has always been a central part of my life.
My connection to the beautiful land comes from my parents who are both of Moroccan descent. My grandmother and grandfather immigrated to Israel in 1962 from Morocco to escape anti-Semitism, making Aliyah to their ancestral homeland. My parents are Zionists sprinkled with a little Moroccan culture that continues to live inside them.
Indeed, the love of Israel was instilled in me at a young age. For this reason, I take it upon myself to educate my peers and community about this small country’s achievements, accomplishments and its global humanitarian aid, in an effort to combat the misinformation that has led to the alarming rise of anti-Semitism.
One day, I aspire to become a doctor and through the StandWithUs Canada High School internship this year, I’ve learned that Israel is among the first on the scene at international disasters through its organization IsraAID. The IDF (Israel Defense Forces) medical and rescue teams have responded to earthquakes in all corners of the globe, including Haiti, Mexico, Armenia, Turkey. El Salvador, India, Peru and many more. Furthermore, technologies and medical programs developed in Israel save and improve lives around the world.
This summer, I volunteered at the Soroka Hospital in Israel. Soroka provides medical care to members of all populations in the region, including Negev Bedouins and Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It is a teaching hospital affiliated with the faculty of Health Sciences at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev whose campus is adjacent to the hospital.
Volunteering at this hospital opened my eyes to the Israeli healthcare system. It made me realize that the mission of first responders, emergency services and doctors/nurses is to save people regardless of their ethnicity, religion, race and background. For instance, the IDF, through its Operation Good Neighbor and under media cover has treated thousands of Syrian civilians and White Helmets wounded in the civil war. They did this despite Syria’s ongoing hostilities against Israel in the Golan Heights.
I was in the children’s ward at Soroka. I played with Muslim toddlers, teaching them how to speak a couple of words in English and showing them how to write in calligraphy. The happiness in their eyes made me feel joyous because I was able to put a smile on their face. I realized then that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict didn’t matter to these kids; they saw me, a teenage girl, and not my religion. I was really appreciated by everyone who works there, and I was extremely grateful for the experience.
The humanitarian aid Israel exhibits inspires me every day to focus on my long-term goal. I hope that one day I can work alongside IsraAID and Magen David Adom to make a difference not only in my community but in the world.
Shirel Attias is a senior at Ecole Maimonide in Montreal.