Current events in Israel have led to the call-up of dozens of doctors for reserve duty, impacting the health system in the country, including hospitals. To bolster resources, medical professionals abroad with a strong connection to Israel are joining the effort. Dr. Amnon Berger is one of several who came to Rambam Health Care Campus (Rambam) in Haifa, Israel.

Dr. Amnon Berger, a 40-year-old Israeli obstetric anesthesiologist, lives and works in Boston. Knowing how essential his expertise would be in such a crisis, there was no dilemma regarding what to do. “My bag was packed that day. The trip to Israel was a fait accompli for me, I just had to figure out what and how I was going to do it,” he says. “It took me a few days to connect with the IL-USDocAid initiative—a partnership between the Israeli Ministry of Health, the Israel Economic Mission, and the Israeli Consulate.” Berger also had to arrange a leave of absence from work so as not to lose his license. He thankfully found a place on a flight and immediately reported to Rambam.

Berger continues, “You can’t just sit there and watch what’s happening in Israel. We pushed the pause button on our lives to make room for something more important—to be part of the war effort. You cannot say ‘no,’ there is no other answer.”

A graduate of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Berger lived most of his life in Israel. He describes the drastic changes in his homeland since his recent summer visit. Remembering the calm, relaxing, and joyous time, he says, “Staying in Tel Aviv, I now walk around with a protective vest: between my work at Rambam, sirens constantly blaring in Tel Aviv, and working with Magen David Adom, Israel’s emergency response unit, everything feels different.”

Reflecting on the shift in behavior within his Boston community, Berger says, “Where I am people are quite tolerant. I receive a lot of support, both in my private life and in the workplace, but it’s not like that everywhere in the U.S.” He goes on to clarify that things are not so easy at a local university. “The Jewish community is feeling exposed. There is a fear that antisemitism might spill over and we will see repercussions: demonstrations, guards at schools and synagogues, and restrictions in our lifestyle. There is overwhelming and unequivocal support for Israel from the U.S. government and local law enforcement agencies, but we are seeing antisemitism rearing its ugly head by an unruly handful.”

Operation Swords of Iron is now in its second month. Rambam’s response to treating the urgent medical needs of civilians and soldiers remains steadfast.  Rambam is deeply grateful to Dr. Berger and all the other volunteers who are helping out at this critical time.

Rambam Health Care Campus, commonly called Rambam Hospital, is a teaching hospital in the Bat Galim neighborhood of Haifa, Israel.

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