April 13, 2009, Updated September 13, 2012

Doctors and nurses at the Baruch Pade Poria Hospital in Tiberias take a special approach to every member of the rich multicultural community their hospital serves. Unless you are welcoming a new baby to the family, no one likes to visit the hospital. Whether you are a guest or a patient, however, local hospitals try their best to make people feel comfortable in some of the most difficult periods of their lives.

It helps, for instance, if doctors speak other languages. It’s also important that your hospital takes into consideration your religious practices, culture, and any special needs. Sometimes there is no time to explain everything. Doctors and medical staff need to be prepared in advance, especially during emergencies.

But no number of House or ER episodes could prepare doctors and nurses for work at an Israeli hospital, where the number of religions and religious practices, languages, and cultures in one ward can outnumber the medical staff.

This is what the Baruch Pade Poria Hospital in Tiberias is taking on. Located in one of the most diverse populations in Israel, and serving more than 100,000 people, the Poria Hospital caters to people living in the eastern Galilee region around the Sea of Galilee.

There are Druze, Christians — Catholic or Greek Orthodox — all kinds of Jews, including secular, religious and the extremely devout, and the influx of new immigrants to Israel from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia. The region also includes a wide spectrum of Israeli Muslims who consider themselves Palestinians.

Treating UN forces, and Christian pilgrims

Poria is also the hospital where UN Special Forces working in the Golan Heights come for treatment, and since the region is such a draw to Christian pilgrims, those unfortunate enough to be hospitalized during their trip to Israel, can know that it’s a safe place for North Americans to turn to as well.

In a workforce of about 160 doctors at Poria, some part-time, 30 doctors are from the Israeli Arab community, says Dr. Ofer Tamir, the deputy director of the hospital, who assures ISRAEL21c that there is nothing boring about working in such a rich multicultural community.

“People come from towns and kibbutzim, religious and non religious and all the spectrum of political beliefs,” says Tamir. “The population in the eastern Galilee is very diverse. There are a lot of groups here that are very unique. A special approach is needed to get to that population,” he says. “The staff is a refection of our population.”

Take for example, the Jewish population among the Breslau Jews. “They have a rather large center in the area, and it’s a very unique population,” says Tamir. “They marry young and they are very particular when women come to give birth. You should be very discreet and gentle with them. And of course, they will demand kosher food.”

Or in the Muslim community, he points out “you have certain groups. The Muslims and Bedouin each have their codes of honor, which is very prominent.”

UK Muslims pledge their support

Last fall, a delegation of prominent British Muslims visited the hospital, and one of the UK leaders was impressed enough to pledge his support. Imam Dr. Mohammed Fahim of the South Woodford Community Center in South Woodford, pledged to raise funds for the multi-faith hospital after his visit. He told ISRAEL21c that he felt proud to be the first British Imam to visit Israel.

“Before I went I had a completely different idea of what I was going to see. I saw a hospital where the doctors, nurses and staff were Jews or Palestinians yet all worked together and there was no discrimination against any patients,” he said.

Founded in 1955, the government-run Poria Hospital, which is affiliated with the University of Minnesota, got a new name on its 50th birthday in 2005. It was renamed in honor of an Israeli doctor Baruch Pade, a chief surgeon for the army, a much-loved family doctor in the region, and a past general manager of the hospital.

The region is also partnered with the cities Tuscan, Milwaukee and St. Paul in the United States, putting a little bit of America into the multicultural melting pot at Poria.

“That’s the partnership developed through the Jewish Agency, and of course it includes all kinds of activities including an exchange of students and doctors, and delegations that go back and forth,” concludes Tamir.

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

Executive Director

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