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Saving Yehia’s Heart

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Julia Greenblatt

Julia Greenblatt

Save a Child’s Heart is an Israeli charity that has saved the lives of over 4,000 children by providing them with the opportunity to get heart surgery. They treat patients from over 50 countries, including Nigeria, Zanzibar and Tanzania, China, Iraq and Ethiopia and others, and have treated patients from Gaza and the Palestinian Territories as well. For the first time, however, Save a Child’s heart operated on an Afghan boy.

Yehia was born in Peshawar, Pakistan with a major heart defect and no way to to pay for lifesaving surgery.  His parents contacted an English-speaking relative from Jalalabad for help. Farhad Zaherr, the relative in question, reached out to his social media contacts and was answered by 69-year-old Anna Mussam, the daughter of Holocaust survivors. Mussam contacted Simon Fisher, executive director of Save a Child’s Heart. “I realize helping a child from a country which Israel has no diplomatic relations is not easy, but perhaps possible,” she emailed him. “Thanks so much and Shabbat Shalom.”

As Mussam predicted, the task was not easy and involved many favors and many contacts. However, Yehia was ultimately operated on in Holon’s Wolfson Medical Center. This 8-hour procedure saved Yehia’s life, along with the help of social media and people willing to look past regional and religious differences. Kudos to all involved and we hope this serves as a roadmap to show that peaceful coexistence is possible.