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‘Moral Obligation Not to Look Away’: Israeli Hospital to Treat War Refugees Opens in Western Ukraine

avatar by Sharon Wrobel

Staff at Israel’s Kochav Meir field hospital in Ukraine treating a child. Photo: Naama Frank Azriel, Sheba Medical Center

Israeli and Ukrainian flags were raised and the countries’ national anthems heard on Tuesday at the opening of a humanitarian field hospital providing medical care to war refugees in the western Ukrainian town of Mostyska.

“The team of excellent doctors, nurses, and medical staff will bring to Ukraine, the best knowledge, the most innovative opportunities that this country has ever seen,” said Deputy Ambassador of Israel in Ukraine Yoav Bistritsky, speaking at the inauguration ceremony. “We promise to be supporting Ukraine in the future to come. And I hope we will see peace in this land.”

The Israeli field hospital — dubbed “Kochav Meir” (Shining Star) in honor of former Prime Minister Golda Meir, who was born in Ukraine and has become a local inspiration amid the country’s defense against Russia — has 66 beds, is staffed with more than 60 medical personnel and has a capacity of 150 patients. It includes a children’s ward, a maternity ward and delivery room, an emergency ward, a primary care clinic, an outpatient clinic, and a command center. Laboratory and imaging capabilities, including X-ray labs, will be available, as well as remote medical technologies

Among other patients, the mission expects to treat refugees with chronic diseases who have not been able to take their usual medicines, pregnant women, and children suffering from frozen feet after hours of walking in the cold. One of the first patients operated on by Sheba Medical Center staff was a 12-year-old girl who fled with her mother, herself a nurse by profession from the war-torn Donetsk region. Fifty patients had been treated so far, Sheba said in an update later on Tuesday, including three that were hospitalized.

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The inauguration ceremony was attended by representatives of the Ukrainian government and included remarks by the mayor of Mostyska, the Governor of the Lviv district and senior medical staff from the Israeli mission.

“The State of Israel’s mission to Ukraine today is a unique moment in history” said Yoel Har-Even, director of the field hospital from Sheba Medical Center. “This moment effectively connects between our past Jewish life here that goes back 1,000 years and the modern Jewish state.”

Har-Even noted that many medical team members have deep family roots in Ukraine going back generations, and recounted his personal family story of his mother — who was born some 90 miles west of the field hospital, and survived World War II.

“There are too many stories, reminders that we have a clear moral obligation not to look away, as human beings, as medical professionals, and as Jews,” he asserted.

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