The Bonus Book of the Week is “I Shall Not Hate, A Gaza Doctor’s Journey” by Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, published in 2010.
Born in February 1955 in Jabalia refugee camp in Gaza (territory in dispute between the Palestinians and Israelis), the author was a descendant of a prominent, wealthy family which evacuated their estate in Palestine in 1948, thinking they would return when the Palestinians regained power in the region. The family’s home was taken over by Ariel Sharon’s family.
The author was the oldest of nine siblings. His most burning childhood memories include the stench of the outhouse, hunger pangs, and exhaustion from selling milk before dawn before going to his United Nations school, where fortunately, he had a few inspirational teachers. He grew up dirt poor, but due to his mother’s iron hand, he became an OB-GYN doctor through extensive, international schooling, including that in Saudi Arabia, Israel, Italy, Belgium and the United States.
The author was an extremely busy man, as through the years, he had eight children with his one wife, who died of leukemia when the youngest child was six years old.
In the single-digit 2000’s, the author– a glutton for punishment– invited a million headaches by commuting from Gaza to Israel for work– four days a week– at an Israeli hospital. Weekly, at the border, he and his luggage had to be screened with X-rays, metal detectors, frisking, questions and identification documents.
Hamas guards were on the Gaza side, and control-freak, often sadistic guards were on the Israeli side. Prior to the blockade that began in 2006, the going-home screening took an hour. Afterwards, it took half a day. There were arbitrary closings and bus delays, traffic, plus the guards, etc.
The author explained that Palestinian culture highly values families, and he chose to live where he did to be close to a large number of his extended relatives. Of course, the pay was also higher in Israel, and the medical community had resources and opportunities way superior to those in Gaza.
“In Gaza… every time the government administration changes [at the top], the health system undergoes a metamorphosis that’s dependent on the people in charge rather than the needs of the population.” Sounds somewhat familiar. In the United States, the health insurance companies are largely in charge.
As is well known, roughly half of Americans get their insurance through their employers. The employers who can afford to pay for their employees’ insurance tend to do better financially because they can attract the best employees.
The nation is following an economically dangerous course because health-insurance costs keep soaring. The biggest employers, due to economies of scale (their insurance costs keep falling because their number of employees keeps rising– creating a larger pool of risk, giving them a statistical advantage), are besting the smaller employers. It is wonderful that this nation has such a diverse labor pool. But its insurance pools of risk are fragmented, complex, and extremely inefficient– when the system could be compared to ONE pool of risk of three hundred plus million people if there is a single-payer national healthcare system.
Ironically, the profit motive is responsible for driving privately-funded new life-saving medical technologies and treatments. This saves patient lives, but leaves patients bankrupt, and longing for a bygone era when the doctor was a trusted family friend who didn’t overcharge them.
Read the book to learn what happened to the author’s family that prompted him to write this book (Hint– the author is guided by the peace-encouraging passages of the Quran, and he wrote, “Judging them [all Americans] as arrogant is the same as calling all Israelis occupiers and all Palestinians troublemakers.”). One more thing: Stereotypes should not be applied to all the participants in the American medical system (i.e., all insurance companies, drug companies, hospitals, other medical institutions and doctors are greedy is the same as calling all patients saintly) just as stereotypes should not be applied to nationalities, ethnicities, etc.