Maurit Beeri is an alumnus of the Wexner Israel Fellowship Program.  She is the Deputy Director of the Alyn Hospital Children and Adolescents Rehabilitation Center.  Maurit can be reached at

A Pediatric Rehabilitation Hospital, such as Alyn Jerusalem, brings together strangers during their most trying times. Jews and Muslims, veteran Israelis and Olim, Haredi and secular share the facility. Differences between the families, the therapists and doctors often cause misunderstandings and hinder the treatment of the child. As a pediatrician, I tried to address the issue by explanations, but to no avail. If my recommendation clashes with the patient's beliefs, logic is useless. I realized that the problem is not clinical.  We needed to learn to understand the difficulty from the patients' point of view.

Tolerance, diversity and pluralism, embraced by US society, are virtues of sadly lesser importance in Israel. Israelis cling to their group identity and are suspicious and ignorant of others' narratives.

How can a hospital overcome a problem which plagues society as a whole? To tackle the problem, I convinced the Alyn management to turn to the Jerusalem Inter Cultural Center, which specializes in dialogue. We decided that Alyn will be the first Culturally Competent Hospital in Israel. All Alyn personnel underwent training in cultural sensitivity.  A translation service is now available. A Cultural Liaison position declared. With the aid of an Imam, we designated a prayer space for Muslims. These changes might seem trivial to an American, but are groundbreaking in Israel. We still face the same problems, but our team is now trained to listen and address cultural issues, and we are doing better at getting our patients to comply and succeed.