A head nurse at Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya, a mother of five, works in the ophthalmology department – currently located in a protected underground complex due to Nahariya’s six-mile proximity to the Lebanese border.
When she comes home after a long shift, you might think she’d put up her feet, maybe unwind with a bubble bath.
But no. Beraha Astruk voluntarily spends her evenings and weekends cooking for two Israel Defense Forces battalions stationed near the northern border.
She even invites the soldiers to shower and do their laundry at her house in Moshav Liman, north of Nahariya and therefore even closer to the volatile border region.
“I am not afraid of the missiles. I believe that every person has his own destiny written from above,” says Astruk, who’s been working at the medical center for 33 years.
Before becoming the head nurse of ophthalmology and a nursing clinical instructor seven years ago, she worked in cardiac intensive care and neurology.
Astruk said that although she has experienced shocking events, this war has presented her with a reality that transcends anything she could ever imagine.
Under threat of rocket fire from Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon, her husband and three of her children have relocated with other residents of Moshav Limon to a hotel in the center of the country. The other two Astruk children are on active military duty in southern Israel.
She said that the main reason she has stayed is to care for the patients in the ward.
But clearly she also finds much gratification in trying her best to make sure the soldiers are fed and comfortable
“Last weekend, I cooked a huge pot of hamin [a slow-cooked Sabbath stew] for the soldiers, and in addition I prepared 300 pieces of kubbeh [semolina dumplings stuffed with spiced ground meat.] I am of Kurdish descent and I finally found a suitable use for the giant pots in my kitchen,” said Astruk with a smile.
She holds a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Haifa and a master’s degree in health systems administration.
The threat from Hezbollah has forced the ophthalmology department into a crowded underground complex in space shared with two other departments: otolaryngology (ENT) and head and neck surgery; and the plastic surgery and burns unit.
“We are doing the best we can under the circumstances,” she said. “It is true that it is crowded here and not ideal conditions, but the staff’s spirit is amazing. We are one in our mission to give the highest level of professional and compassionate care in safe surroundings. We are highly motivated, encourage one another, and are dedicated to our patients.”
A commander in one of the IDF battalions who is enjoying Beraha’s hospitality describes her as “a true blessing. Sometimes I feel she wants to give us more than we are even capable of receiving. I don’t have enough words to thank her on my behalf and on behalf of hundreds of soldiers from the region.”