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Exchanging kindness Palestine father, Israel mother donate kidneys

A Palestinian patient man gets his kidneys washed at the dialysis department in the Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City on January 8, 2017 [Mohammed Dahman/Apaimages]
A Palestinian patient man gets his kidneys washed at the dialysis department in the Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City on January 8, 2017 [Mohammed Dahman/Apaimages]

An Israeli woman has donated one of her kidneys to a three-year-old Palestinian boy from the Gaza Strip in an exchange of incredible kindness that saw the boy's father donate one of his kidneys to save a 25-year-old Israeli mother.

Turning 50, Idit Harel Segal wanted to mark the joyous occasion in the most incredible way possible by giving the gift of life. The kindergarten teacher from northern Israel is said to have been spurred by memories of her late grandfather, a Holocaust survivor, who had told her to live by the meaningfully Jewish tradition that there's no higher duty than saving a life.

After a nine-month process trying to find a recipient, a three-year-old Palestinian boy was identified as an ideal candidate. The boy's identity and that of his family has not been disclosed due to the sensitivity of the exchange.

The story may not have had such a happy ending without Segal's persistence and the equally incredible sacrifice made by the boy's father.

Segal's decision is said to have initially caused deep rifts in the family. Her husband and the oldest of her three children, a son in his early 20s, opposed the plan. Her father stopped talking to her. "My family was really against it. Everyone was against it. My husband, my sister, her husband. And the one who supported me the least was my father," Segal said during a recent interview. "They were afraid."

When she learnt that the recipient of her kidney was a Palestinian, Segel kept details of the boy's identity for months due to her family's strong objection. "I told no one," Segal recalled. "I told myself if the reaction to the kidney donation is so harsh, so obviously the fact that a Palestinian boy is getting it will make it even harsher."

Read: First kidney transplant centre opens in Gaza thanks to Qatari financial aid

The boy's case and getting the transplant carried out successfully is said to have been incredibly complicated. Gaza has been subjected to a 14-year Israeli blockade. In May the besieged enclave was subjected to a 11-day onslaught, the latest of many that targeted Palestinian women and children. Latest indication, according to a report by Human Rights Watch, is that Israel committed war crimes and violated international law during its attack over two months ago.

The exchange may not have happened without the boy's father donating his kidney to an Israeli receipt. It seems he wanted to donate his kidney to his son but he was not a match. To speed up the process he was advised to donate a kidney to an Israeli recipient instead. That way the boy would "immediately go to the top of the list," Sharona Sherman, chief executive of Matnat Chaim, a non-governmental organisation in Jerusalem, who coordinated the exchange, is reported saying.

On the same day his son received a new kidney, the father donated one of his own — to a 25-year-old Israeli mother of two.

"You don't know me, but soon we'll be very close because my kidney will be in your body," Segal wrote in Hebrew to the boy. A friend translated the letter into Arabic so the family might understand. "I hope with all my heart that this surgery will succeed and you will live a long and healthy and meaningful life."

Segal said she visited the boy on the eve of his surgery and maintains contact with his parents.

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