On Friday, a medical team from Israel that had been sent to Ukraine after the invasion of Russia for running a field hospital returned home. Israel shut down the clinic after operating it for six weeks. The hospital had been located around west of Lviv at a distance of 30 miles in Mostyska. It had been given the name of ‘Kohav Meir’, which means ‘Shining Star’. This is a pun on the name of Golda Meir, the former Prime Minister of Israel, who had been born in Ukraine and had founded the International Development Cooperation aid program of the Foreign Ministry.
The program and Sheba Medical Center had led to the project. More than 6,000 patients had been treated in the hospital during these six weeks and at least one baby had been delivered. Most of the people who were treated had not been wounded in the war. They were Ukrainian civilians who had been struggling to get care, as the country’s resources had been stretched thin due to the military assault. Initially, the plan had been to operate the hospital for about a month, but there was a delay in the closing date twice. There were 100 staff members, which included 80 nurses and doctors.
The initial crew was eventually replaced by a new one from the Sheba Medical Center. Nitzan Horowitz, the Health Minister, had visited the hospital earlier this month and thanked the crew for their ‘holy work’. He said that they were providing medical care with professionalism and expertise, especially under extremely difficult conditions. The purpose of the hospital had been to assist civilians and it had about 150 beds that were spread across its gynecology, pediatric, emergency and obstetrics wards. The facility had received funding of about NIS 21 million, which is around $6.5 million.
It was operating from 10 outdoor tents and multiple classrooms had also been converted into hospitalization wards. The hospital was the highlight of the assistance Israel is providing to Ukraine, as it is only offering humanitarian aid, even though Kyiv has asked for military assistance too. In the weeks since the Russian invasion, the Ukrainian and Israeli officials have been vacillating between coordinating and clashing, with Jerusalem trying to walk a fine line in offering assistance to Kyiv and not alienating Russia. Naftali Bennett, the Israeli Prime Minister, has refrained from directing harsh criticism towards Moscow over its invasion.
Israel is one of the handful of countries that has maintained relatively friendly relations with both Russia and fellow democracy Ukraine. However, Israel has shifted its stance recently, as reports of civilians being killed emerged. This prompted Yair Lapid, the Foreign Minister, to use language that had been avoided previously in referring to Russia’s invasion. Last week, Benny Gantz, the Defense Minister, said that Israel would provide flak jackets and helmets to the emergency services in Ukraine, which was a change, as they had refused to provide any defensive equipment earlier. Kyiv has also asked Israel for their defensive military equipment, but Jerusalem has rebuffed them.