Israel and Azerbaijan are two allies in regions overwhelmed by conflict and violence, and we share many things and weather similar storms. We are long-standing trade and security partners, allies in our common fight against extremism, and we share values of tolerance, progress and respect for the preciousness of every human life. And in recent weeks, we have shared medical miracles, as a team of volunteer surgeons from Israel were in Baku, performing complex eye surgeries and treatments on Azerbaijani soldiers, home and seriously injured since the recent Karabakh war.
The team of Israeli medical specialists, led by Dr. Yishay Falick, CEO of Misgav Ladach Hospital in Jerusalem, treated more than 150 Azerbaijani veterans, operating mainly in the field of oculoplasty (plastic surgery of the eyes and adjacent parts) and performing procedures such as orbit restoration, eyelid surgery, prosthetic eyes (at least 25 of them) and more. This humanitarian mission of Israeli volunteer doctors, including leading ophthalmologists and neurologists, was organized on the initiative of the Azerbaijani organization YACHT, which was recently created to help disabled war veterans as well as the families of soldiers killed in action. The mission was supported by the renowned Zarifa Aliyeva National Eye Center of Azerbaijan and the Israeli Embassy in Baku. The delegation was supported in Israel by, among others, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi.
Israeli doctors joined the mission on an entirely voluntary basis, closing their private clinics to take part in this important humanitarian medical operation.
“The young soldiers we met suffered terrible injuries – most couldn’t leave the house due to facial deformities,” said Dr. Falick. According to Baltimore Jewish Life, doctors also adjusted the prostheses to restore the soldiers’ faces, allowing them to return to a more normal routine, even in cases where it was impossible to restore their sight. In a number of cases, doctors were able to restore sight to wounded soldiers. A notable case is that of soldier Arif Hajiyev, who lost his sight when he was injured by a shell explosion that only allowed him to distinguish between light and dark. The operation, which lasted several hours, included the removal of traumatic cataracts, the insertion of an intraocular lens and the transplant of a cornea, offered by an Israeli belonging to her late husband. After several days of recovery, Arif regained his ability to read. his father tweeted: “Thanks to the talented doctors during the operation they performed, my son Arif Hajiyev regained full vision.”
Another soldier, who received an eye prosthesis, tweeted his photo with the words “My New Eye Has Arrived”.
The Israeli team was very impressed with the Zarifa Aliyeva National Eye Center, where all surgeries and treatments were performed, and Dr Falick described it as the largest eye center he had ever seen, with state-of-the-art equipment. In an interview with the Israeli television channel I24 News, Dr. Falick shared why this medical mission is particularly close to his heart: “In Azerbaijan, you feel at home, you feel like family. Everyone is warm towards Israel and the Jews. They have no prejudices. There is mutual love.
Hikmet Hajiyev, Foreign Policy Assistant to the President of Azerbaijan, tweeted: “We are grateful to the Israeli medical team and Embassy of Israel for providing ophthalmic health support to our injured soldiers/officers. It is also a sign of friendship between our countries. “He who saves a life saves the world”
And Israel’s Ambassador to Azerbaijan, George Deek mentioned: “This is the spirit of friendship between Israel and Azerbaijan. We want to help these people regain their health, their self-confidence and their ability to return to live a good, normal and decent life in their homeland, Azerbaijan.
Like a war survivor, I know the tragic pain that accompanies lingering wounds. And I know very well what it means to begin to heal, especially when the healing is administered by the best and most caring physicians available. It is therefore normal that our wounded soldiers are healed by a force of love such as the delegation of Israeli doctors. It is a force of love that permeates our two nations, a force that is built on deep intimacy, a shared hope and the courage with which our nations are blessed, to stand against that which is violent and come together to bring good in the world, despite challenges and obstacles.