Rambam hospital as a mirror of Israel

Jews and Arabs in the 'apartheid' state of Israel.

Jack Engelhard

OpEds Jack Engelhard
Jack Engelhard
צילום: מתוך האתר האישי

Several days ago I appeared on Gadi Adelman’s radio program and as usual he was terrific and I was mildly okay, which is as good as I get speaking publicly. I save my best, I suppose, for my writing, which happened to be the topic of discussion – specifically my novel “Indecent Proposal.”

That remains my Big Book. It was first published in 1988, made a big splash and soon Paramount turned it into a big movie. It’s since been republished by DayRay Literary Press and the storm of controversy continues even as recently as last month as again I spoke publicly and mildly okay to a group in Manhattan.

A woman accused the novel of objectifying women and I should have said that these days, under political correctness, everything objectifies women.

Everything you say to a woman objectifies women one way or another. But I said nothing about it because as noted, I am not quick on my feet.

The question of the radio hour was – “how does a nice Jewish boy write such a steamy book?” Never mind. Except that the book  (any book) is always different from the writer and always better than the writer. It is seldom the same thing. Gadi and his partner Dee asked what inspired “Indecent Proposal”?

Reviewer Barbara Raskin, writing for the NY Times when it was good, summed it up as a book that explores “primal issues; the sanctity of marriage versus a love of money, Jews versus non-Jews, skill versus luck, materialism versus spirituality, Israel versus the Arab countries and the religious world versus the secular one.” (All of which the movie left out.)

Okay, but I summed it up differently.

I told Gadi that a trip to Israel had much to do with the book, directly in some places but indirectly in other places, as a novel is after all a work of the imagination.

Gadi was surprised to hear this and asked me to explain it further, the Israel/IDF connection to so provocative a novel on so many levels.

But I left my explanation unfinished, so now, here’s the finish, ever so briefly.

We were deployed to the Navy base in Haifa and everything about it was so beautiful until something happened and I got wounded.
We were deployed to the Navy base in Haifa and everything about it was so beautiful until something happened and I got wounded.

I learned so much about Israel in so short a time, but nothing prepared me for that visit to Rambam Hospital which is sprawled directly next door to the Navy base and which I know now is recognized as among the finest hospitals in the world. I only knew, then, that it was necessary to carry me to the emergency room.

The captain and two cadets carried me in and stayed, worried, until a doctor came, examined my knee, and shook his head.

“Lo tov,” the doctor said and the captain translated it for me as “not good.” I said that this much Hebrew, I knew.

The captain and the cadets left, still worried. Israelis always worry about Americans or any guests should anything be less than perfect. They feel responsible for every visitor. I knew that I was in good hands. Nurses and doctors came over to check up on me moment to moment as if I were something special.

But so was the man in the next bed and he was an Arab and kept getting the same motherly touch. There was no difference between us in terms of care and attention.

Up and down the corridors it was pretty much the same so far as this mix.

The surgeon came in. He said he was fixing me up as well as he could and he would finish the job if I stayed. But since I would soon be leaving I’d need the surgery back in the United States. He noticed my gloomy expression and said, “Do not come to Israel to die. Come to Israel to live.”

I used that directly in the novel, that quote, and the rest of it I also used, about how matter-of-fact Israelis are when it comes to treating everybody alike.

Don’t they know that Israel is an “apartheid” state? More than half the world says so. Only the Israelis themselves do not bother with this.

They’re too busy proclaiming liberty for all.

For as it turned out, never mind patients, Arab doctors and nurses are a vital part of the staff, no questions asked. 

But I asked -- finally something new under the sun? Not at all. It has always been like this, in this hospital and in every hospital throughout the Land.

Writing that in a novel was wonderfully simple because even a work of fiction rests upon the truth.

New York-based bestselling American novelist Jack Engelhard writes a regular column for Arutz Sheva. New from the novelist: “News Anchor Sweetheart,” a novelist’s version of Fox News and Megyn Kelly. Engelhard is the author of the international bestseller “Indecent Proposal.” For books like his award-winning memoir “Escape from Mount Moriah,” he is the recipient of the Ben Hecht Award for Literary Excellence. Website: www.jackengelhard.com