“This is a Palestinian story.” ~Book’s opening sentence
Today’s riddle: What’s the name of the Palestinian who is a heart surgeon, who studied in Germany, specialized in the U.S., met Yasser Arafat twice, Hamas’ founder Sheikh Ahmad Yassin once, who saved scores of Palestinian lives, including one deemed a collaborator, saved Israeli soldiers’ lives, was a municipal council member, is married to a German, and now is an author?
The name is Dr. Shehadeh “Shawki” Khalil Harb, better known as just Dr. Shawki Harb, from Ramallah. He was born on December 13, 1938, during the Great Revolt between 1936–1939 and, as Dr. Harb recounts, he came on his own, since the midwife could not reach the house in time due to intense shooting in the neighborhood. Born a Christian and breastfed by a Muslim, Dr. Harb embodies the best of both traditions.
If you are from my generation or older in Palestine, you know and respect the person even if you have never crossed paths with him.
I first came across his name during the Palestinian Intifada (Uprising) that started in the year 2000. The Israeli military had decided to directly (since they never stopped occupying in some form) reoccupy all Palestinian population centers, including Ramallah and Al-Bireh where I live. Unlike the Intifada of 1987, which was mostly non-violent, the death and destruction in this mostly armed onslaught seemed never-ending. We live in Al-Bireh on a road that leads to the Ramallah Hospital where ambulances whisked by non-stop to transport the wounded. Ramallah Hospital is the same hospital where Dr. Harb worked for more than a quarter of a century.
As we watched the wounded pile up at the hospital on the news, a doctor in the waiting room — turned triage — kneeled over a young wounded patient. The hospital was overloaded, and Dr. Harb was performing life-saving procedures on this patient on the waiting room floor. From that introduction, this doctor earned my respect, albeit it would be two decades later before I had the honor of meeting him in person.
Today, Dr. Harb is retired and living in Farmington, Utah, in the U.S., but he remains as active as ever. Several years ago…