Israeli doctor Raz Somech, who has dedicated much of his life to working with Palestinian patients, expressed his hope last week that his work featured in the film Precious Life would show a side of Israel generally less known to the world.
Somech spoke at Concordia following the screening of the documentary, directed by Israeli journalist Shlomi Eldar. The film focuses on the ordeal of a Palestinian family, whose son Mohammad suffers from a disorder that is untreatable in the Gaza Strip. Eldar follows Somech as he seeks to fund the operation and to find a match for the child’s blood type. Finally an anonymous donor steps in and covers the child’s medical fees, saying that his son died in the army and that he wants to give something back by saving the boy.
As Mohammad’s operation progresses, tensions rise and Israel enters Gaza and Somech is called up to join a contingent of Israeli soldiers. He recounted last week that one general justified the attack and the extreme use of force saying, “let’s show them that the landlord is crazy” in reference to Israel.
According to Somech, if the landlord is crazy, then there is no hope. He expressed his opposition to “operation Cast Lead,” saying that “it was strange for me to be with the [Israel Defense Forces] in Gaza, while still being in contact with my patients.”
At the end of the documentary the house of his patients comes under fire and Somech receives a panicked text message from the family, as bombs fall around them. A Palestinian colleague of Somech sees his daughters die as a result of the Israeli onslaught and calls Shlomi Eldar to beg for help. The doctor cries to Eldar over the phone during a live broadcast on Israeli television.
Somech expressed his deep regret last week for what he called a major over reaction on the part of Israel. Tears came to his eyes as he recounted his hopes for better understanding between the Palestinians in Gaza and the Israelis. Change and hope are the two elements that Somech sees bringing people together in the end.