Dr. Israel Figa, an American-born surgeon, writer, and talented documentary filmmaker, is currently filming about his experience in Israel and the war in Syria. In his first book titled “The Middle Eastern Experiences of Dr. Israel Figa”, he details studying Hebrew and Arabic and the regions cultural differences.
Dr. Figa describes the civil war of Syria and meeting Ahmad in 2018 in the city of Douma, east of Damascus. On the first day of the Eid al-Adha holiday, six-year-old Ahmad went out to the store where an ISIS sniper murdered his family and wounded him in the head. The boy was admitted to the hospital, Dr. Figa urgently operated on him and saved him on the operating table. During the long months of rehabilitation, they became friends and Dr. Israel Figa adopted Ahmad and took him to Israel to continue treatment.
“What is happening in Syria is horrible. War is always horrible, and we Israelis know it better than anyone else”, says Israel Figa, while explaining “Children are especially affected. And there are tens of thousands of wounded children in Syria. They get hurt. Their relatives and friends are dying before their eyes. Their houses have been destroyed. The war turned their lives upside down, deprived of all children’s joys. They try their best and take care of younger brothers and sisters. They grow up and the only thing that they have is their hope”.
Since 2015, Dr. Figa has been a volunteer in Syria. In addition to donating his own funds to various charities, Israel supports injured children via the international charity organization ‘Doctor Without Borders’ which aims to save children’s lives on the operating table. “Your time can be even more valuable than your money,” – says Dr. Figa.
Looking at this calm, quiet and happy fifty-year-old man, who is drinking cappuccino in the center of Tel Aviv and ordering lemonade glass after glass for his six-year-old adopted son, you never think, what they both went through.
Dr. Yisrael Figa was born into a Jewish family situated in Detroit, Michigan, and during his teens moved to Jerusalem. He served in the Israeli army and then went to the Hebrew University of Medicine. As a student, he worked various jobs, including bartending in the famous bars of Tel Aviv.
According to Israel, “It was a legendary place. People from all over the world gathered there, it was the face of Tel Aviv at that time. Free, funny, outstanding. Young people were meeting for beer, talking, dancing, falling in love. We were all friends, we were family”, Israel Figa says while explaining the attraction to medical studies, “But one evening an Islamic suicide terrorist set off a bomb. It was on Thursday. I was one of the few who survived – just because as a bartender I was on the other side of a massive wooden bar table, which saved my life. I felt so hopeless to see so many wonderful people fall victim which attracted me to the medical field”.
After this, Dr. Figa left Israel to work as a doctor in various dangerous places around the world, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Iraq, and Syria before finding the time to author a book about the Tel Aviv bar tragedy he witnessed.
Dr. Figa explains writing the book was psychotherapy. “I could not reconcile myself for several years, and only after I described all this horror in my book, I realized what I should do”.
After returning to Israel, Dr. Figa set a life goal to assist those who suffer from war and terror. After several years in Syria as part of the Doctors Without Borders program, thousands of operations, and treating tens of thousands of disadvantaged children, Dr. Figa and his colleagues Dr. Josh Cartu and Dr. Fahad Al Tamimi began setting up medical supply routes to treat coronavirus and other types of non-war related illnesses.
According to Dr. Fahad Al Tamimi, “The war in Syria has been going on for ten years, and meanwhile an entire generation has grown up that does not know any other type of lifestyle other than survival. It is is our duty to help the people”
Dr. Josh Cartu, a veteran field physician stated “More than 29,000 children have been killed since the start of the civil war in Syria in 2011. The senseless war for political purpose or dirt on the ground (territorial land disputes) must stop”. Joshua Cartu explains “More than 80 percent of people in Syria today live below the poverty line. The country has an unemployment rate of at least 55 percent, and jobs are increasingly hard to find. The conflict has taken a heavy socio-economic toll on the population, and that is now the catalyst for growing discontent in loyalist ranks.