Jerusalem Diary: A Mission to Heal

A Muslim surgeon chronicles his two-week trip to the holy land, where he will work with kids and get to the heart of religion.

Continued from page 3

Tuesday, Jan 9

The Work Begins--My Anxiety Mounts
Having been in Jerusalem now for 48 hours, I cannot imagine a more productive yet emotionally draining two days. We saw a few children in a clinic my first evening here and then scheduled operations for three children for the next two days. There are two more children set to arrive from Gaza today who need surgical care and inshallah (God willing) we will be able to do their operations before Friday.

The difficulties for Palestinians--in regards to travel permits and identification card requirements--are overwhelming. Children arrive for their operations without their parents, but rather with friends of the family or grandparents. They come with anyone who has a permit to travel--the important thing is just to get to us. Some families took nearly seven hours to travel a mere 100 km yesterday to see us. The time delays are not due to road conditions, but all the checkpoints. We decided to admit these children to the hospital in fear of their inability to travel on their designated operative day.

We completed our first operation this morning, and I was perhaps the most frightened I have ever been in all my years of training and practice. To perform delicate procedures on these helpless children in a land where I don't speak the language, am not used to the equipment, and must work with people whom I have never met before is a daunting task. The welcoming nature of the local caregivers is so very kind that I feel embarrassed at times in the manner in which they treat us "foreigners."

Alhumdulillah (thank God) the case went well. But I am all the more anxious in anticipation of several cases that have yet to come. The differences in medical technology and standards of care are challenging me to find new ways of making sure that we provide the safest and most complete surgical care possible.

My First Prayers at Masjid Al-Aqsa
I have been blessed to visit and pray at Masjid Al-Aqsa as well as within the Dome of the Rock. The area of "Old Jerusalem" is indeed an amazing place, as the four quarters are all confined within an approximate 10-15 square kilometer area. The holiest of places for all three monotheistic religions are in this tiny area, and there is no denying the amazing variety of people, cultures, customs, and religious principles that can be found here.

I found an elderly person at Al-Aqsa who was so very helpful in describing to me the details of the mosque. The symbolism in the Dome of the Rock was very interesting in terms of the number of arches and pillars throughout the structure. To see the Ayatul Kursi (a passage from the Qur’an) carved into the dome itself was breathtaking.

I was able to do my midday prayer in Al-Aqsa, and this will surely be a highlight of the trip. I am sure that doing Salat-ul-Juma (Friday prayers) in this mosque will be quite overwhelming.

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