Eldad Rafaeli

A Shared Organ, a Shared Destiny

In the Kidney Transplant Department of Soroka Hospital in the Negev, they’ve long since done away with externalities. Here, what matters is what’s inside — both the body and the soul.

When Naif Altura needed a kidney donation, his wife underwent a donor test. She turned out to be a match — for a patient in Jerusalem. But that patient’s son was a match for Naif. The twists to this crossover- transplant story don’t end there: The transplant team, led by Prof. Yosef Haviv, included Dr. Oz Yakir and Dr. Abed Abu Ganim, the latter of whom made history as the first Bedouin surgeon in Israel.

Soroka Hospital, like medical centers across the state, is both a microcosm of Israeli culture and a place where religious and national backgrounds are left at the door. Here, there are only dedicated doctors and nurses, and only patients in need of care. “We were supported in every way”, recalls Sharon Zippora of Ofakim, who received a kidney from his son Reuven. He tells of how encouraging Prof. Haviv was in the face of his fear and uncertainty, and of his meeting with Dr. Abu Ganim, who “gave me his full, undivided attention, and treated me as if I were the only person in the room.”

For Dr. Abu Ganim, it’s only natural to relate to his transplant patients as family. “An organ transplant is symbolic of the connection between people. It shows how, at the end of a day, a person is a person,” he insists. “Just like any other.”