On a hospital bed at the Ziv Medical Center, high in the Upper Galilee Mountains, a Syrian rebel who goes by the name Ramadan was still wincing in pain from a bullet that had torn through his right shoulder only 10 days before. But he said there was something important he wanted to tell me. The gruff-voiced, barrel-chested fighter sat up on his hospital bed and began.
“All the world is killing us, all the world,” he said. “All my life I was told Israel is my enemy. I grew up like that, to believe that Israel is the devil. But all the world is against us, and only Israel is our friend. The world is killing us. Israel is saving us.”
How it came to pass that Ramadan ended up in an Israeli hospital in a picturesque mountaintop city said to have been founded by Shem, the son of Noah, is straightforward enough, even with some of the details necessarily left out—Ramadan’s real name, for instance, and the name of his home village, where his worried wife and two sons were waiting for him to come home.
“I am a fighter for the Free Syrian Army. I was in a battle to protect my village from soldiers of Bashar Assad. They were attacking us,” Ramadan said. In the fighting, he was hit by a round fired from an MG3 machine gun. It tore open his upper arm and shredded his shoulder. The FSA unit won the battle. “My village is still free,” Ramadan said. But he’d been severely wounded. He could have bled to death.
“One of my team had a friend from a village near the Israeli border, so they took me there right away. They put me on a donkey. The donkey carried me up to the Israeli border. And then the Israeli soldiers brought me here.”
What is not so straightforward is how it came to pass that more than 3,000 Syrians have been taken in by Israeli hospitals over the past four years...