SOLAR PLEXUS

A site devoted to to understanding the world we live in and to making a difference.

Israeli Life by Geoff Boner

I am delighted to introduce the first of our Guest Bloggers, an old classmate and friend, Geoff Boner.

Geoff made aliyah from South Africa in 1960. It was the experience of a 2 month, post-matriculation trip to Israel that had finally motivated him to make his life in Israel. On returning to South Africa, Geoff joined a youth movement, Bnei Zion, and after graduating in Medicine from the University of the Witwatersrand, known as Wits to most South Africans, he started work at Tel Hashomer – much like the famous Baragwaneth Hospital in Johannesburg.

Geoff, like others before and after him,  persevered through the rigours of learning a new language while at the same time educating himself in his profession and completing his military service, where he rose to the rank of Major. He went on to become a specialist Nephrologist, served at a number of hospitals, large and small and achieved considerable  professional and academic recognition, including a prize from the Israeli Society of Transplantation for his lifetime contributions to that field.

Geoff managed to spare sufficient time from these activities to marry his South African born and educated wife, Pam, sire two boys and one girl and become a proud grandfather. It is the moral and intellectual calibre of people like him which has created the Israel we admire and respect.

Geoff has been given a free hand to write about matters pertaining to life in Israel, to his profession and about any topic which may illuminate an aspect of Israeli life not always accessible to us in the Diaspora.

I hope you all get to know Geoff well over time. Please engage with him by commenting on what he has written. Don’t hesitate to ask questions and even to suggest topics of interest.

Israeli Life by Geoff Boner

Aril Einstein: The most important local (Israeli) news this past week (24-30 November) was the death of Arik Einstein at the age of 74 years. Arik Einstein was an iconic figure in modern Israeli music. He brought his unique style of singing and songs to generations of young Israelis from the 60s to the present. He was the new Israeli, born and raisedf in Tel Aviv and expressing the way of life of the urban Israeli as opposed to the previous generations of  “chalutzik” Israelis.

He was not a celebrity in the modern meaning of the word and for the last few years did not make personal appearances. However, his songs were continuously played and recordings continued to be sold. Tens of thousands of admirers of his music came to honor him as his coffin was displayed in the square in front of the Tel Aviv municipal buildings. These people were old and young, some who knew him personally and others who loved his music. He was then buried in the old Tel Aviv cemetery along with the great of previous generations of  the forefathers of the Jewish City. Several hundreds of people stayed at the graveside for many hours of the night. His recordings have been broadcasted repeatedly over the past few days.

To hear one of his songs about Tel Aviv, the white city, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-vWfGW7Hf2E&list=PLA8DD636B9ADDEBFB&index=7

Israeli Arabs: Arabs continue to make up about 20% of the population of Israel. The obvious question is whether they have managed to become integrated into the Israeli economy.

It is easy to think of the Israeli Arabs as providing unskilled labor for the Jewish population. It is true that many of them are unskilled laborers, but they are moving upwards and becoming integrated into all walks of life. There are a large number of Arabs, both unskilled and skilled laborers in the building trade. A few months ago I did a major renovation of my home. At the initial stage when we were searching for a contractor and other skilled workers many of the people, who we considered were Arabs. Eventually we selected a Jewish contractor, as we knew him from previous work. However, we knew that most of his laborers were Arabs. The contractor who replaced the tiles on our roof was Arab as were most of the other skilled workers, such as those replacing tiles in the bathroom and on the floors.

The Arabs are well represented amongst lawyers and, to a lesser extent, as Judges. However, what I wish to emphasize is the integration of Arabs into the medical professions.

On November 24, Maariv, the second most popular daily newspaper in Hebrew, published an article entitled “Physicians without borders”, describing the role of Arabs within the medical and para-medical professions. The author of the article interviewed three Arabs; the first had studied nursing in a government hospital about 30 years previously. He started his professional career as a male nurse in the emergency room of the hospital, where he studied and since 1997 is the coordinator of trauma care in the same hospital. He was of the opinion that the number of Arabs in the health care professions has doubled or even tripled in the past 20 years. He has never been subject to discrimination and is of the opinion that promotion is based on ability and not on ethnics. He treats patients of all ethnic groups and sees himself as a citizen of Israel.

The second interviewee is a specialist in child development and neurology and is director of the department in a government hospital. He stated that there are many Arabs who are employed as physicians or nurses, both in the hospitals and in community clinics, both in the Jewish and Arab sectors. He stated that the medical fields attract Arab academics as they are able to advance in these positions.

The third interviewee was the Medical Director of the government hospital in Naharia. He looks on Israel as being his country and although there may be some discrimination against the minority groups, people are able to progress according to their ability.

The Ministry of Health published, last year, statistics on the employment characteristics of physicians in Israel (as quoted by Maariv). The total number of physicians in Israel was 23,818, including 2,281 (9.6%) from the Arab sector. Most Arab physicians (50%) are employed in the community and 45% are employed in the hospitals, whereas 38% of Jewish physicians work in the community.

An important difference is that a minority of the Arab physicians (23%) studied medicine in Israel. The competition to be accepted to medical faculties in Israel is great and many students study medicine in foreign faculties.  In addition only 14% of the Arab physicians are female.

Arabs professionals are also well represented in other medical and paramedical professions such as pharmacists, optometrists, dentists and physiotherapists. I personally know several Arab physicians, who are heads of departments and units in the various hospitals in Israel. All these Arab professionals make an important contribution to the standard of medical care in Israel. The Arabs are today an essential and respected component of the medical services in Israel.

Geoff Boner

PS. My own memory of Geoff is of an honourable, thoughtful and warmhearted person ready to go out of his way to help a friend or a colleague. Perhaps at the time I did not fully appreciate the steel in his personality which enabled him to make a successful life in a very different and demanding country, but with increasing age comes deeper appreciation. I look forward to sharing his experiences and percpetions of life in Israel in Solar Plexus with readers over many issues to come.

Mike Berger

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