His late mother was an illiterate housewife and his father a simple farmer and construction worker who never got beyond fourth grade. Nevertheless, Dr. Aziz Darawshe’s 11 younger siblings include three physicians, a dentist, an engineer and five sisters who attended university.
There goes the theory that to get anywhere in life, one has to have well-educated and well-off parents...
Three months ago, the 57-year-old cardiologist, internal medicine specialist and emergency medicine expert replaced Prof. Ya’acov Assaf who retired after 18 years in the position, beating other candidates competing in a Hadassah tender. Darawshe earned an excellent reputation since 1994 as chairman of emergency medicine at Emek Hospital in Afula.
A self-declared secular Muslim, Darawshe was born in Iksal, near Mount Tabor and Nazareth, and with his wife Mona – a mathematics teacher – he still lives in the village.
His eldest son, 27, has completed his medical degree in Jerusalem and is learning neurosurgery in Beersheba, while his second one is studying in Germany.
An unusual characteristic one discovers in Darawshe is his drive to understand and get to know his patients. Besides Arabic, Hebrew, English and the Bulgarian he learned at medical school, he also speaks “a bissele Yiddish,” Russian, Spanish and German – learned either in courses or from his conversations with his colleagues and patients.
“Last October, I was invited to an event at Beit Hanassi [President’s Residence] in honor of Bulgarians, and I was able to speak to them,” he said. “I sometimes make errors in Arabic, and I don’t feel bad. But if I make a mistake in Hebrew, I feel terrible. I speak much more Hebrew than Arabic. Most Arabs learn Hebrew, and more Jews should learn Arabic. It should be regarded as the language of one’s neighbors, not that of one’s enemy.”
Darawshe also knows a lot about Jewish history – probably more than many Jews.
He has gone to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial to understand what they went through.
Asked whether he has suffered any discrimination as an Arab physician, Darawshe answers a definitive “No! The integration of Arabs into the medical field has been impressive in this country. In the health system, Arabs and Jews get along excellently on an individual level. It’s an oasis, in a world of ethnic, socioeconomic, racial and other prejudice. Since the establishment of the State of Israel, this has been so in hospitals and health funds and in Education Ministry institutions, unlike in other government ministries and various public companies. The establishment has no choice but to hire Arabs as manpower in schools, and the same is true in medical institutions. The rate of Arab pharmacists is about 40 percent. I’d be happier if Arabs were given chances to excel in other fields.”