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Jerusalem hospital treats victims and attackers

JERUSALEM -- As violence sweeps across Jerusalem, victims and perpetrators are often surprised to be reunited -- at each other's bedside in the city's largest emergency ward.

The Hadassah Medical Center prides itself on checking politics at the door and treating Palestinians and Jews alike. But the tensions on the street are increasingly seeping through the hospital's sterile walls, with family members clashing in the hallways and causing the wounded even more trauma.

Hadassah's Ein Kerem campus is considered a rare model of coexistence in deeply divided Jerusalem, with a mixed Jewish-Arab medical team working together to treat the city's wounded and infirm. They are accustomed to separating their own feelings from the task at hand and treating those on the other side of the region's decades-old conflict.

Daniel Weiss, the chief resident of Surgery Ward A, said it was "irrelevant" whether he was operating on a victim or a wounded attacker.

"We have patients of all kinds coming in. It doesn't matter who they are. We treat them all," he said. "It's surreal, but that is the way we are."

It's a sentiment echoed by Ahmed Eid, head of surgery at Hadassah's Mount Scopus campus, after he operated on and saved the life of a 13-year-old Jewish boy who was stabbed and arrived at the hospital with barely a pulse.

"This is the situation and it has become very routine for us," he said. "What happens in the country also affects us, but it doesn't influence our medicine. Hadassah is a very special place."

That notion doesn't sit well with everyone.

Odel Bennett was hospitalized at Hadassah after a Palestinian stabbed her husband, Aharon, to death on Oct. 3, seriously wounded her and lightly wounded their 2-year-old son Natan. The attacker stabbed another Israeli man to death before being shot dead.

When Bennett, 22, learned that a Palestinian woman who stabbed an Israeli man in the Old City several days later was being treated just four doors down the hall, she began to shake and have an anxiety attack.

"It is very, very hard to have a victim next to someone who tried to murder," she said from her hospital bed, where she was still recovering from 11 stab wounds. "I understand that the hospital has to take them. I just don't know why they aren't treated in prisons. That's the reality."

Dvora Kirshenbaum, an emergency room nurse, said victims and wounded attackers sometimes end up literally lying next to each other.

"We detach and treat the person we need to treat professionally without getting into emotional considerations. Everyone has their beliefs and opinions outside the hospital," she said. "That is the profession we chose."

Outside the ER, among the tense families waiting for word about their loved ones, it's not as easy.

A 31-year-old Palestinian woman was brought in after she critically wounded herself and lightly wounded a police officer when an explosive device went off in her vehicle in the West Bank.

Israel's Shin Bet security agency said she yelled "God is great" before detonating a gas canister. Her family denied the account.

Her brother-in-law, Walid Zreina, 49, told a reporter that the blast was an accident and his relative was innocent. "We are a good family who has nothing to do with politics," he said.

Just then, a nearby Israeli woman angrily interjected.

"Do all the terrorists come from good homes?" Linor Levy, 28, asked, pointing her finger at him. "You teach your children to murder!" Zreina shrugged and protested as the woman continued to berate him for five minutes before security broke it up.

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