The story of an American physician who faced medical, personal, and cultural challenges at a hospital in Jerusalem.
In his engrossing debut memoir, Waldman, a pediatric oncologist and associate chief in the division of palliative care at the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, recounts 7 years as attending physician at the Hadassah Medical Center, where his young patients included Israeli Jews and Arabs and Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza. His motivation for moving to Israel was to make aliyah, contributing to the success of the Zionist project; he hoped, also, to find meaning and purpose for his life. Growing up in suburban Connecticut, the son of a conservative rabbi, Waldman had majored in religious studies and felt nurtured by his faith until he began working as a doctor, confronted daily with suffering and death. Part of his reason for emigrating was to make sense of his spiritual crisis and, not least, to find a true home: he had been moving from place to place, “fixated on erasing the person I used to be.” In Jerusalem, in his first senior position, he became aware of some profound shortcomings: nowhere in his medical training, for example, was he ever taught how to address his patients’ spiritual needs. In fact, he adds, “at no point was I even taught that it’s an issue at all.” Nor did he have a clear understanding of the oppression and racism experienced by Arabs, no matter where they lived. Palestinian families had to endure hours at multiple military checkpoints to bring their desperately sick children to the hospital. Even a beloved Arab nurse was often treated “as though she is a traitor, an Arab Uncle Tom.” Jews questioned her competence. Besides offering warm portraits of the children he treated and their distraught families, Waldman chronicles his transformation from a somewhat naïve, underprepared physician to one more politically and culturally astute.
A candid and revealing portrait of a man and a nation in turmoil.