Typically, my year end message sums up the business climate in the therapy industry, summarizing my accomplishments and those of the therapists I am fortunate to work with, along with words of gratitude. Notwithstanding the fact that this has been a successful year in most regards, I have also been distracted and consumed by the events of October 7th.
On October 7th, In Israel, approximately 240 people from over 10 countries, ranging in age from 10 months to 87 years old were taken hostage. This included one of “our own”, Carmel Gat (pictured above), a 39 year old occupational therapist from Tel Aviv. She was visiting her parents in Kibbutz Be’eri when Hamas terrorists attacked, killing her mother, Kinneret. Carmel was taken captive, along with her brother, Alon, sister-in-law Yarden Roman-Gat, and niece, Geffen.
My identity as a therapist is based on many things, but not the fact that I was a Jewish therapist, until October 7th. Since that day, I have been asked by many other Jewish therapists to make a statement, and until now, I could not find my voice. Until I grasped the fact that two things can be true at the same time.
I have been thinking about Carmel since the moment I heard she was a hostage. I hoped that she fit the profile of so many of us – resourceful, optimistic, a problem solver, an empath and a relationship builder, because I knew those skills could serve her, and hopefully others around her well. That does not mean I have not also been thinking of all the civilians in Gaza, as well as the therapists and other healthcare professionals who have worked tirelessly to try to bring adequate rehabilitation services to Gaza. I have tried unsuccessfully to get first hand information about therapists in Gaza including Yousef Alwikhery,an OT who worked at the Al-Awda hospital in the northern Gaza Strip in 2022. I reached out to the HI organization, an independent and impartial international solidarity organization. They have previously spearheaded rehabilitation projects in Gaza. They are reporting around 50,000 injured Palestinians including many who have suffered traumatic injuries including amputations. They currently have miraculously launched some limited rehabilitation activities in IDP shelters through trained volunteers providing around 1,000 people with assistive devices. Their goal is to scale up substantially and are currently seeking volunteers. There may be ways you can help. For more information: https://reliefweb.int/job/4022714/physios-and-occupational-therapists-experienced-emergency-context-response-gaza-strip
Yes, two things can be true at the same time. My concern for Carmel and the remaining hostages whom as of this writing have not been released does not diminish or negate my concern for the people and health professionals in Gaza. I can condemn Hamas and feel compassion for the Palestinians. Carmel’s brother Alon and his daughter escaped and are home in Israel. Her sister-in-law Yarden was released on November 29th as part of the Qatari-brokered cease-fire deal. As for Carmel, other released hostages have reported that once a day she does yoga with some of the children still being held.
May we all keep Carmel, the rest of the hostages and all of the innocent civilians of Gaza along with the heroic medical professions in the area in our hearts and mind. May a pathway be created forward for human rights and peace for Israelis and Palestinians alike.
Iris Kimberg, MS PT OTR