ביקור חולים - Bikkur Cholim
Kiryat Sh’mona is way up north in Israel, which means anytime Lebanon threatens Israel or Israelies – Kiryat Sh’mona is on the front lines. This article is written in August of 2006 just after the second Lebanon war in which many, many residents of Kiryat Sh’mona were injured and traumatized. It is written by Seth Siegel who traveled to Israel with magician, David Blane.
Visiting the sick (Bikur Cholim) is a commandment in Jewish law. The sick person may be a friend or relative, but may also be a complete stranger. And, although visiting one with illness or physical injury most logically fits this obligation, it is also true of those in mental distress. I never before appreciated how powerful Bikur Cholim could be, and will look for more ways to honor this tradition.
We were fortunate that a ceasefire went into effect almost immediately before our arrival. Even so, in several communities in the north, children were still in shelters for an extra day or two to be sure the ceasefire would hold. Many of the wounded we visited in two hospital visits (at hospitals which were both themselves bombed) will have long periods of treatment and convalescence, and the ceasefire meant little as the aftermath of the war will continue a long time for many of them.
David Blaine entertained at two hospitals, at several shelters, in communities in the north like Haifa, Nahariya and Acco which had come under daily attack during the war, along with visits to the Arab village of Majd al-Krum and relocation camps where hundreds of Jewish, Druze and Arab children had been taken for safety just south of the rockets’ range. We met new immigrants from Ethiopia, Argentina and Russia, and multi-generation Israelis, as well. We also had the chance to spend several hours each at Hatzor Air Force base (home to the F-16 fleet) and at Shayetet 13, the sprawling base for Israel’s Navy Seals. Wherever we went, we were thanked for coming, often with tales of the tension and hellish conditions of the wartime period.
A believer in “random acts of kindness”, David would have us stop the car when he saw a situation where he thought he could bring a smile to someone in pain. For example, in Kiryat Shemona, we passed a home hit by a Katyusha which set off a fire. The owner of the home was in front of the shell of his house and his two boys were playing out front. This was, as I came to see, a perfect David Blaine situation. They had never heard of him, but within three or four amazing tricks, all three were laughing. The father told me that that was the first time he or his boys had laughed in more than a month, and they asked if David would pose for pictures with them.