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April 14, 2021 11:52 am

Muslim Nurse Who Recited ‘Shema’ Prayer for Dying Jewish Patient to Bear Torch for Israeli Independence Day Ceremony

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

Emek Medical Center, Afula, Israel. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Israel invited a Muslim nurse who recited a Hebrew prayer for a dying Jewish patient to be a torchbearer during a Wednesday night ceremony on Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl, marking the end of Memorial Day for Israel’s Fallen Soldiers and the beginning of Israel’s 73rd Independence Day celebrations.

Maher Ibrahim is among the 14 men and women chosen to light the torches at the ceremony. A resident of Daburiyya, an Arab village in northern Israel, Ibrahim is a nurse at the Emek Medical Center in Afula and head nurse of the hospital’s COVID-19 unit. He treated Hasidic patient Shlomo Galster for coronavirus for more than a month at the hospital. When the medical staff realized Galster’s family would not make it to the hospital in time to say the “Shema Yisrael” prayer before he died, Ibrahim said the Hebrew passage on his behalf.

Ibrahim told The Times of Israel he feels “honored and proud” to be a torchbearer and “for everyone who has been with us throughout the past year” fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

The torchbearers also received a Knesset Medal, presented by Speaker of the Knesset Yariv Levin, at a ceremony held at the Knesset on Monday. Mayor of Jerusalem Moshe Lion said at the reception that the torchbearers serve “as a tangible expression of the fraternity, camaraderie and partnership that are the hallmark of Israeli society.”

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Minister of Culture and Sport Yehiel Tropper told the 14 individuals, “Israeli fraternity is what has sustained us all more than anything over the past year, even in the most difficult days, and perhaps then most of all … Everyone who is here today has given up something in order to give to others. Thank you all for making our society a better one.”

Levin also congratulated and thanked them for their work.

“You express, each in his or her own way, what we hold in common, the unifying force that binds us together, the mutual solidarity that makes us so unique,” he said. “You represent the medical teams that not only worked to save lives, but also displayed courage under the conditions of uncertainty that marked the pandemic from the start. You represent the relief organizations and many private individuals that do volunteer work all year round to ease the hardships of so many people. You represent the IDF soldiers, the police officers of the Israel Police and the security personnel that have engaged throughout the years, around the clock, in the defense of the State of Israel and its residents.

“You express our venerable tradition and culture, which are passed down and renewed from one generation to the next.”

Minister of Transportation Miri Regev added, “The ceremony gives expression to people who acted on behalf of one another, not for the purpose of gaining attention or recognition, but out of the love of human beings and the love of the land. It also gives expression to the traditions and heritages in Israeli society. Here’s to you and to the State of Israel.”

Two other medical personnel were also asked to be torchbearers: Narjas Abu Yamen, a resident of the Arab village Rameh in northern Israel and a nurse since 1989 who managed several different medical teams during the COVID-19 pandemic, and Dr. Dror Dicker, head of the coronavirus unit at the Rabin Medical Center-Hasharon Campus in Petah Tikva.

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