‘Sheba medics restored my life’

IT was a profound encounter for Idan Goldberger when the Australian-based Israeli, seriously wounded in the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), thanked the surgeon and the speech therapist who restored his quality of life in the Rehabilitation Hospital at Israel’s Sheba Medical Centre – and announced he is now able to repay them in the most meaningful way.

Goldberger, best known in Australia as the former executive director and shaliach of UIA Victoria, has just been named executive director of the new Australian Friends of Sheba Medical Centre, which will promote partnerships between Sheba and Australian hospitals.

In 2002, Goldberger’s IDF unit had been dispatched to rescue an army vehicle stranded at Nablus in the West Bank. During the military operation, on Goldberger’s 21st birthday, the young Israeli was shot by a Palestinian sniper and seriously disfigured. Ironically he had postponed his leave or he would not have been on duty on that fateful day.

“The doctors at Sheba didn’t save my life, as it wasn’t a life-threatening wound, but they restored my quality of life,” Goldberger told The AJN.

Over two-and-a-half years, surgeons inserted a titanium brace in his jaw, restored mouth movement, restored his broken teeth and jawbone, healed internal scarring, and gave him speech therapy.

Five years ago, Goldberger and his family moved to Australia when he took up his UIA roles. Wrapping up last year, he was approached to head the new Australian Friends of Sheba (AFS) organisation – and is excited at what can be achieved.

AFS chairman Avri Alfasi explained that Sheba Medical Centre has support organisations in North America, Latin America and Europe. Additionally it has US partnerships with the Mayo Clinic and hospitals in Houston and Tampa.

“On a tour of Sheba, we were discussing the prospect of broadening the partnership focus from the US to other countries and a delegation from Sheba visited Australia early in 2020. COVID put a hold on our planning until late last year but now we’re excited to be moving ahead,” said Alfasi.

Sheba is in advanced discussions with three Australian hospitals to set up partnerships, and the new friends organisation will raise funds to facilitate those ties and to aid Sheba’s facilities at Tel Hashomer.

“People who support Australian Friends of Sheba will be supporting not only Israel, but Australian healthcare and cutting-edge research, such as in telehealth, which has huge potential,” said Goldberger. “Australia is known for its top-ranking medical facilities and Israel is known for its start-up culture. Combining these two will create the best of both worlds.”

For more information on Australian Friends of Sheba Medical Centre, contact Idan on 0466 246 800.