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Jewish Settlers, Shot At, Needed Help. A Palestinian Doctor Didn’t Hesitate.

Jewish attack victim

The Palestinian doctor was on his way to Jerusalem to join in Ramadan prayers when he made a decision that many in Israel found inspiring: He helped save the lives of Jewish settlers.

Dr. Ali Shroukh, 45, was driving with his brothers along a West Bank road on Friday when they came upon a car that had flipped over onto its roof. The vehicle — big and boxy, with room to fit many children — seemed easily identifiable as belonging to a Jewish settler.

The car had crashed after a Palestinian gunman fired at it, killing the driver, Rabbi Michael Mark, 46, a father of 10. His wife was critically injured, and one of the two children in the car, a teenage girl, was seriously wounded. The family was on its way to Jerusalem to visit Rabbi Mark’s mother.

Dr. Shroukh did not realize that he was witnessing the aftermath of a terrorist attack. His instinct was simply to help.

His response was an act of kindness in a conflict that is often bereft of it, particularly amid the violence of the past nine months, when Palestinians have killed more than 30 Israelis. Over 210 Palestinians have also been killed, many while committing an attack or intending to do so.

Who is treated, and who is not, has been a particularly contentious issue.

Israelis have accused Palestinian medics of ignoring wounded Jews. After one attack, an Israeli woman who had been stabbed in the neck said Palestinians mocked her as she sought help.

Palestinians and human rights activists have documented several instances in which Palestinian attackers or would-be attackers were left unattended by Israeli medics and subsequently died.

A senior Israeli military official said the military constantly checks in with its medics to make sure they understand its policy to treat Palestinian attackers quickly.

Dr. Ali Shroukh, center, and his brother Mahmoud, right, in Dahriya, West Bank, on Tuesday. Dr. Shroukh rushed to help the Marks after seeing their overturned car.

Dr. Ali Shroukh, center, and his brother Mahmoud, right, in Dahriya, West Bank, on Tuesday. Dr. Shroukh rushed to help the Marks after seeing their overturned car.

Since the news of Dr. Shroukh’s selfless actions broke, international and local news media have beaten a path to his tiny urology clinic above a shopping center in Dahriya, a rural border town. His phone continues to ring with Israeli officials who want to thank him.

In an interview, Dr. Shroukh said politics were not on his mind on Friday after he was issued a one-day permit to enter Jerusalem. He wanted to pray at the Al Aqsa Mosque compound on the last Friday of Ramadan, a particularly holy day.

At a bend in the road, he saw a Palestinian man diverting traffic around the smashed vehicle.

The man called out, “Brother, there’s a wounded girl in my car.”

The man and his wife had put the girl in their car while they waited for medics. The couple, who later spoke to an Israeli media outlet and were not identified, said they had been trying to comfort the Marks’ daughter Tehila, who was injured in her abdomen.

Dr. Shroukh compressed the girl’s wound with a towel. She was crying and asking questions, but Dr. Shroukh, who does not speak Hebrew, could not understand her.

His brother Mahmoud, a day laborer in Israel who speaks some Hebrew, intervened.

“She asked, ‘What happened to my family?’” Mahmoud Shroukh said. “I said: ‘Don’t be afraid. My brother is a doctor, and we will take care of you.’”

“Are my parents dead?” Mahmoud recalled her asking. “Don’t worry, your mother and father are O.K.,” he told her. He did not want to distress her, he said.

Then, Dr. Shroukh and his brother checked the vehicle for survivors.

They found Rabbi Mark dead. His wife, Chavi, 44, had a serious head injury and was unconscious. Dr. Shroukh and his brother smashed open a window and extracted her.

Soon after, an Israeli ambulance came to attend to the victims and take them to a hospital.

Then the reality of the conflict sank in: A Palestinian medic who had arrived urged the brothers to leave. This was an attack, not a car accident, he told Dr. Shroukh. Israeli soldiers could arrest him, suspecting him of being an accomplice because he was not dressed as a doctor and was covered in blood. Vengeful Jewish settlers could attack him, thinking he was the gunman.

Israeli police and security forces at the scene of the attack, which Dr. Shroukh came upon while driving to Jerusalem.

The brothers drove away. Even so, Dr. Shroukh said, he left only after he was sure the victims were being cared for. It was his duty to help, even if he thought he was at risk.

“It doesn’t matter if somebody is a settler, a Jew or an Arab,” he said. “Thank God we helped them.”

They reached Al Aqsa Mosque in the evening, breaking their fast and praying.

The small moments of compassion did not end there.

During Rabbi Mark’s funeral, as some mourners shouted, “Revenge! Revenge!,” one of Rabbi Mark’s sons asked them to leave, according to a report on the Israeli website Ynet that was confirmed by other family members.

When some people described Arabs as “murderous” and “scum of the earth” on the Facebook page of Rabbi Mark’s daughter-in-law, she responded by writing that Palestinians had tried to help, too.

The Palestinians “stayed with them in those difficult moments,” wrote the daughter-in-law, Yiska Mark. “I think you should write terrorist, and not Arabs.”

In nearby Otniel, Rabbi Mark’s nephew, Rabbi Menachem Kelmanson, 28, and his wife, Ayelet, 27, sat shiva for their uncle on Monday.

Ms. Kelmanson gestured to their street: Three adults, all parents, had been killed in militant attacks since the surge of violence began in October, she said.

Still, they maintained good relations with the Palestinians they knew who worked in Otniel, Ms. Kelmanson said, even if they were locked, as a people, into conflict.

“We know Arabs,” Mr. Kelmanson said. “We don’t believe in revenge.”

Rabbi Kelmanson asked about the Palestinian doctor who had tried to save his uncle’s family, then began weeping. “Tell him thank you, thank you, from all my heart,” he said.


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About the author

Sydney Chesterfield

Poet, Playwright, Philosopher, Humanitarian, mad lover of children and unflinching fighter for equality on all grounds viz. Women's rights, child rights, sine die.

Twitter: @syd_field