Wednesday's report about journalist Arnon Segal, who donated a kidney under the condition that "the kidney would go to a Jew," took me back to the surgery I underwent six months ago in which I altruistically donated a kidney. Segal's condition not only stirred up strong feelings within me regarding racism in Israeli society, but also reminded me of the reactions I received myself.
Unlike him, the option of setting disclaimers or conditions regarding the recipient of the donation caused me great unease. Therefore, at the beginning of the process, I wrote on the forms I filled out that I would be happy to donate without discrimination on the basis of religious, ethnic or gender distinctions. And indeed, a little over half a year ago, I donated a kidney to a Bedouin resident of Rahat, with whose family I maintain close ties to this day.
What led me to write this comment on the form, for which I do not apologize, was my belief that health considerations should not be influenced by political or national considerations. I left it to the healthcare system to make a decision that would be right, appropriate, and perhaps based on urgency, regarding my kidney. I felt that determining matters of life and death is not my role, and therefore it is not up to me to decide who is deserving of what and when.
Israeli society - on the streets, in the Knesset, in the media and on social networks - is plagued by harsh incidents of racism and verbal and physical violence. Our daily lives are filled with such stories. Israelis, including public officials, forget that this society is comprised of a mosaic of people, sectors, and religions, and that the Jewish state established 75 years ago was obligated to provide basic services in healthcare, personal security, education, and welfare to all citizens, whether they belong to the Jewish majority or are part of the Arab, Druze, Circassian or other minority.
Therefore, my decision to donate to whoever has been on the waiting list for years was thoughtful, rational, and above all, Jewish and Zionist. Jewish, because it is already stated in the book of Genesis, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image"(Genesis 9:6), and therefore it is our duty to save every person regardless of their nationality, race, or religion. Zionist, because in the Israeli Declaration of Independence, we committed that the State of Israel will uphold complete social and political equality for all its citizens, without distinction of religion, race, or gender.
Arnon Segal's attitude has evoked a solemn feeling in me. The Israeli public is already divided, filled with hatred and animosity. Why poison the atmosphere further? Why perform a good deed and then proudly wave a flag of hatred and malice? I appreciate Segal for choosing to donate and risking his own health, but why accompany it with a racist statement?
During the process of kidney donation, I met many good people who perform their holy work without mixing politics, opinions, or nationalism into their actions. I also encountered many who made a similar decision to mine and donated to whoever was in need, regardless of their national identity. To my delight, I am not unique in this regard.
Beyond my feelings towards Segal, I want to direct criticism toward the Israeli media. Organ donation is an altruistic act, and everyone has the right to choose the recipient, so Segal has the right to set conditions for his donation. However, the media itself needs to act responsibly and refrain from highlighting racist conditions, especially without criticizing them, and ever moreso during such a sensitive and divisive time like the one we are currently experiencing.
- Dafi Forer-Kremer works at the Jewish Agency for Israel. Until recently, she managed the organization "TIM: Resources and Advocacy for Jewish Life."