Siderer: I wanted to boost morale
Photo: Avi Roccah

Profile: Woman hurt by Grad goes back to work

Dr. Mirela Siderer, who was severely injured by a Grad missile in 2008, returns to clinic where it all happened after nine surgeries, testimony before Goldstone committee. 'He humiliated me,' she says of UN judge

Dr. Mirela Siderer, a gynecologist who was severely injured by a Grad missile that fell on her clinic in Ashkelon in 2008, will return to work on March 1 at the very location at which she was injured.


In the two years she spent convalescing from facial and upper body injuries, Siderer underwent nine different plastic surgeries. Then she testified before the Goldstone committee in Geneva, but was shocked to discover when reading the report that her testimony was largely ignored. "I was humiliated," she says just before heading back to work.


On May 14, 2008, a Grad missile landed on a Clalit clinic in Ashkelon's mall, just moments after Dr. Siderer had received her final patient for the day.


"I reached towards the printer, and then suddenly found myself under the desk," she recounts. "I felt as though a ball of fire was revolving around my face and burning it. There was total silence, deathly silence, even more than on Yom Kippur. The entire ceiling had come down on me. I felt blood dripping down my face."


Siderer called her husband, then a doctor with the Border Guard, who rushed to the mall but found she had already been evacuated by paramedics. "He passed by me in the hall, and looked at me as I lay on the stretcher, but he didn't recognize me because my face was covered in blood," she says.


The gynecologist was operated on by many different plastic surgeons since her injuries, but still suffers from breathing pains and finds it difficult to smile. "I'm strong as a bull, and I didn't let it break me," she says. Siderer attributes her courage to refusing to look at herself in the mirror until much of the reconstructive work had been completed.


Now she is returning to work, but not without qualms. "I told my manager I could come back to the clinic, but not to my old room," she says. But Siderer is excited. "In truth I've been waiting for this, and it's sparked a real fire in me. I'm waiting expectantly for this day."


'No illusions'

During Operation Cast Lead a Grad missile fell near Siderer's home while she and her son hid in their fortified room. A short while later she received a call from Benny Vaknin, Ashkelon's mayor, asking her to join him on a trip to Geneva to testify before Justice Richard Goldstone, who was in charge of a committee probing Israel's offensive in Gaza.


Siderer immediately agreed, and rushed to the hospital to retrieve footage of her wounds following the attack. "Until then I didn't have the courage to look at those photos, but I understood that in this game, the Goldstone investigation, only pictures can speak," she says.


"I had no illusions that my testimony would change things, but I wanted to do it for Israeli morale. If I can't change world opinion about us, at least I can lift the Israeli spirit. I testified there for a long time, and my pictures were shown on the large screen in the hall. It wasn't easy."


But the doctor would find it even more difficult to read the committee's concluding report. Flipping through the hundreds of pages on which Goldstone elaborated upon Israel's "war crimes", Siderer found four lines about her testimony on page 460.


"I discovered that I was just a tiny screw in the whole report. I told myself before I left: You have a stage on which to defend Israel, so use it. But what did the judge write about me? Four lines. Who I am, what happened, and where it happened," she recalls.


"Humiliation is the word for what he did to me," Siderer says. "I have compassion for innocent people, and not everyone in Gaza is a terrorist, but there are also children in Israel who suffer."


'We mustn't be ashamed'

Siderer says her testimony was important because it justified the IDF operation. "I am angry at Goldstone, and I am hurt. I was unwittingly made into an Israeli symbol in this report, but the judge himself doesn't see me as a victim," she says.


Dr. Siderer was the only Israeli witness to provide direct testimony before the Goldstone committee in English. Despite the Israeli government's rejection of the report and the public relations it engaged in after it was published, she now believes more could have been done to salvage Israel's reputation.


"We should have done more in the field of public relations from day one – more pictures, more testimonies, more pressure on the world," she says. "We mustn't be ashamed of our actions, we must believe in what we do and always explain why we are doing it. The report hurt me personally and it hurt the country I live in."


Yet Siderer does feel that her testimony helped her country. "I feel that my story and my testimony lifted the public's spirits, going by the responses I receive each day. That was worth more than anything else," she concludes.


פרסום ראשון: 02.17.10, 11:53
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