Dentist in Lebanon treats Syrian victims after brutal attacks

I am a doctor on the most dangerous border, and I attend to those who need my help regardless of their origin.

  • 3 years ago
  • July 14, 2021
5 min read
Alejandro Roisentul received an award. Alejandro Roisentul received an award.
Alejandro Roisentul, 53, graduated from the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1986 with a Dentistry degree. He now serves as the director of the Maxillofacial Surgery Unit at Ziv Medical Center in northeast Israel. He joined the hospital at the age of 24.
According to the International Medical Corps, the decade-old Syrian war has left an estimated 400,000 dead and caused over half of its 21 million people to flee – displaced in Syria or living as refugees elsewhere.

In addition to doctors like Roisentul, Doctors Without Borders provides medical care for Syrian refugees inside Lebanon. Most of their recent work has centered around COVID-19 efforts.

Israel and Syria are bordering countries that lack diplomatic relations. Technically, they have been at war since the founding of the State of Israel. They have directly fought in the Arab-Israeli War in 1948, in the Six Days in 1967, and the Yom Kippur War in 1973. Later, they also fought in the Lebanese Civil War, the Lebanese War of 1982, and the War of Attrition.

They have maintained an armistice for long periods and have tried several times to achieve peace, but without success.

In modern times, the two regions have virtually no economic or cultural ties, and there is only a limited movement of people across the border. Syria is one of the main promoters of the Arab boycott of Israel. As part of an agreement that has been current since the 1980s, Syria supplied 10 percent of the water for Majdal Shams near the Syrian border.

The border between Syria and Israel was established in the 1920s and was disputed between the two countries. East of this international border, the Golan Heights were occupied since 1967 and unilaterally annexed by Israel in 1981, but Syria claims that it is a disputed territory between both countries. The United Nations does not recognize the annexation.

TSFAT, Israel – I have been working as a dentist for 22 years. I am in charge of the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Unit of the Ziv hospital. The hospital is located 11 kilometers (6.8 miles) from Lebanon and 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) from Syria. 

I experienced the attacks [during the Syrian Civil War] in Lebanon first-hand. Our hospital serves more than 200,000 inhabitants with only 350 beds. Since the Syrian conflict began, we have served more than 5,000 Syrians and 17 percent of them were children.

Some of the medical staff speak Arabic so we can communicate with patients, but when neither Arabic nor English can help, the language of the eyes is the most sincere and powerful form of communication I can employ.

Nothing stops me from saving lives. Although our countries are enemies, I establish friendships. My destiny is to heal; that is what I promised in my Hippocratic oath. As a health servant, I must be at the service of others regardless of whether they are a friend or foe. 

Between 2013 and 2018, Israel provided humanitarian services to those wounded from the civil war in Syria. Army ambulances brought the wounded to us in mass. These victims believed we were their enemies, but they soon realized we were there to save lives.

Performing surgery as missiles shake the ground

One day, I was operating on a patient who was anesthetized and I began to hear noises. The sounds intensified until the ceiling began to shake. I was so afraid but had to keep a cool head and keep working. 

I felt the effect of about 30 missiles that day. It was like thunder striking close by, making everything move. Panic sets in. I was aware of everything that was happening and I thought about my family and loved ones.

Until 2006, operating rooms had no protection. After those episodes, the hospitals had to build an operating room and emergency room with missile protection. Even now, a new intensive care wing is being constructed under this strict protocol. The bombings continue but doctors and patients are a little more protected.

Traumatized, injured children suffer and find treatment

Three years ago, a boy arrived at the hospital suffering from a gunshot wound to the face. It entered through the side of his eye and exited through the nape of his neck. 

Over time, the bones had been poorly sealed. He could not open his mouth and was living on a liquid diet. Fear swept through me as I never knew such horror was possible. After a four-hour intervention, we were able to save him. 

The best reward I ever received was caring for a girl with juvenile diabetes who had no more insulin. She came to the hospital to live out her final days. She arrived malnourished with many oral problems. 

We saved her life, and she was able to return with her mother to Syria. She comes to the hospital every six months to get insulin because they don’t have it in Syria. She says she has to bury her insulin so that it does not get stolen. 

At our last visit, she thanked me with such happiness. Her life is completely transformed.

At the hospital, “enemies” peacefully coexist

In the hospital, people can coexist. We serve Jews, Christian Arabs, Muslim Arabs, and immigrants from all over the world. In the corridors, you can hear many languages. We know how to live together, side-by-side, sharing a table in the restaurant and throughout the facility. 

Although our countries did not sign the peace agreement, this is not a war of the people. I dream that the patients who are helped in these border countries will become the leaders who fight for an end to the conflict. 

They can be an instrument for both countries to sign a peace agreement because they can attest to Israel’s humanitarian aid and the lives we save regardless of a person’s origin.

Although civil wars continue in their homelands, patients yearn to return and to reunite with their families and loved ones.

Love is the only way out

The patients always thank us; we hear it in many languages. But I want to thank them for choosing us and putting their lives in our hands. Their choice is a significant act of love.

They found themselves standing between life and death. We face that battle together – the medical and security teams, the patients, and their families.

As a result, life continues. I hope that our neighboring countries can find a way to peace. Peace with our “enemies” is possible. We have proven it.

Translation Disclaimer

Translations provided by Orato World Media are intended to result in the end translated document being understandable in the end language. Although every effort is made to ensure our translations are accurate we cannot guarantee the translation will be without errors.


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