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Commentary: In the Middle of the Jewish-Palestinian Conflict, the Family of a Young Jewish Man Killed by a Suicide Bomber Donated His Kidney to an Ailing Palestinian Girl

Weekend Edition Saturday: September 28, 2002

Essay: Hope from the Middle East


Yoni Jesner will not have the chance to become a doctor, but this week he saved a life. Mr. Jesner was 19. He grew up in Glasgow and became devoted to the idea of making his life in medicine and exploring his Jewish heritage. He wanted to give a year or two of his life to helping to build Israel, so he left Scotland last year to live in a Jewish settlement on the West Bank and prepared for medical school in London. Yoni Jesner was riding a bus in Tel Aviv to visit his uncle's house last week when a man came on board and set off a bomb that he had strapped to his chest. Yoni Jesner and five other people were killed.

There is a seven-year-old girl in East Jerusalem, Yasmin Rumeilah, who was born with a failing kidney. During the last two years of unrest and violence, her parents would bundle her against their bodies to carry her through Israeli checkpoints three times a week to a hospital in West Jerusalem, where Israeli doctors would treat their daughter. The little girl was put on a list to receive a new kidney.

The doctors who had to examine Yoni Jesner's broken body and tell his father and brother that he was dead knew that the young man had planned to become a doctor, so they told his family that there was a seven-year-old Palestinian girl who could go on living if she had a kidney. Yoni's father, Joseph Jesner, said, `We began thinking that Yoni's going into the ground and his soul is up there in heaven. And we realized that at this very moment, we could save other people's lives. We felt that Yoni would have wanted to help.'

His brother, Ari Jesner, said this week that their grief over the loss of Yoni made his family want to give what they could of his brother's life to save another. `We were delighted to help,' he said. Now the word delight is striking. It seems unexpected from a man who is grieving, but delight is what they felt for the chance to save a life. `We believe it's a real sanctification of God's name,' said Ari Jesner, `to bring something positive out of this terrible conflict.'

So this week, Yoni Jesner's kidney was transplanted into Yasmin Rumeileh. The little girl is reportedly doing well. Doctors say there is every chance that she can grow up to live a normal life, which in the present torment of Jerusalem means if she is not blown up by a suicide bomber or a misdirected bullet.

Yoni Jesner will not live to become a doctor, but just as surely, he will be remembered as a healer. Yasmin Rumeileh's father, Abu, who runs a tea and coffee shop in East Jerusalem, said this week, `We are one family. They saved my daughter. Part of their son is living in my daughter. We are all one people.'

And the time is now 18 minutes past the hour.

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