A Mideast Bond, Stitched of Pain and Healing

by mgopin on February 21, 2010 · 0 comments

A Mideast Bond, Stitched of Pain and Healing
By Ethan Bronner

marya and orel

JERUSALEM — He can be impulsive. She has a touch of bossiness. Next-door neighbors for nearly a year, they talk, watch television and explore the world together, wandering into each other’s homes without a second thought. She likes his mother’s eggplant dish. He likes her father’s rice and lamb.

Marya, a Palestinian, and Orel, an Israeli, are 8-year-old neighbors at Jerusalem’s Alyn Hospital.

Friendship often starts with proximity, but Orel and Marya, both 8, have been thrust together in a way few elsewhere have. Their playground is a hospital corridor. He is an Israeli Jew severely wounded by a Hamas rocket. She is a Palestinian Muslim from Gaza paralyzed by an Israeli missile. Someone forgot to tell them that they are enemies.

“He’s a naughty boy,” Marya likes to say of Orel with an appreciative smile when he gets a little wild.

When Orel arrived here a year ago, he could not hear, see, talk or walk. Now he does them all haltingly. Half his brain is gone. Doctors were deeply pessimistic about his survival. Today they are amazed at his progress although unclear how much more can be made.

Marya’s spinal cord was broken at the neck and she can move only her head. Smart, sunny and strong-willed, she moves her wheelchair by pushing a button with her chin. Nothing escapes her gaze. She knows that Orel is starting to prefer boys as playmates and she makes room. But their bond remains strong.

In a way, a friendship between two wounded children from opposing backgrounds is not that surprising. Neither understands the prolonged fight over land and identity that so divides people here. They are kids. They play.

But for those who have spent time in their presence at Alyn Hospital in Jerusalem, it is almost more powerful to observe their parents, who do understand. They have developed a kinship that defies national struggle.

Read the full New York Times article here.

© Marc Gopin

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