When David Barashi heard about the earthquake in Nepal, he filled a suitcase with wigs, face paint and a red clown's nose, and boarded a plane for Kathmandu.
Jaffa resident Barashi, 39, a street theater artist and a medical clown at Hadassah Medical Center in Ein Kerem, Jerusalem, and Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv, went to Nepal to pep up and bring some joy to children (and adults) injured in the natural disaster. He was accompanied by Yaron Goshen, another medical clown, and another three clowns will be joining them soon.
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The trip to Nepal isn't Barashi's first to a disaster-struck area. "I was in Thailand after the tsunami, and I went to Haiti after the big earthquake there," Barashi says.
"About two years ago, I visited the same area in Nepal and conducted a clowning workshop for local doctors. The earthquake threw me back in time to this beautiful place that has now been destroyed, and I knew I had to be there to help."
Thanks to his work at hospitals in Israel, Barashi knows many of the doctors and medical personnel who are part of the Israeli delegation to Nepal, and pulled a few strings to tag along; and after landing in Kathmandu on Saturday, he donned his clown suit and got to work. The Dream Doctors organization paid for his air ticket, and the Israeli Embassy in Nepal is taking care of his accommodation and transportation arrangements and costs.
Since arriving in Nepal, Barashi and Goshen have been working with patients at the Israel Defense Forces' field hospital and local medical centers too. "Despite the fact that we speak different languages, clown language is universal, and the gibberish we speak makes all children in the world laugh," Barashi says.
One of the patients who touched Barashi in particular was a 19-year-old dancer who sustained injuries to both legs and one arm when a wall collapsed on him.
"He was extremely frightened, but cheered up a little when we played with him," the medical clown recounts.
Barashi and his co-clowns plan to stay in Nepal and train local residents who will then be able to continue with the work when the Israelis leave.
"It may be very hard work, under a lot of pressure, but it's insanely satisfying," Barashi says. "The therapy is very important for the injured, but no less so for the therapists, who encounter harsh images every day."
And how do the Israeli clowns themselves cope with the gruesome reality? "We make each other laugh," Barashi says.