“Annie fell off the chair today in kindergarten,” said Simcha.
She had been waiting for us to return from our morning Hebrew class.Annie had been crying, but now she was calm.
“She hasn’t had stitches yet,” Simcha added.
“Why didn’t you call us straight away? You’re supposed to be the manager of this Immigrant Absorption Center,” I said, as I gathered our little girl in my arms.
“We’re taking care of her. She’s OK.”
“What do you mean, ‘We’re taking care of her’? You haven’t done anything. She should have had stitches right away.”
Simcha tried to lower the temperature. “I’m sorry. The only doctor at the clinic who is qualified to stitch up cuts is in Haifa today. We have arranged for an ambulance to take you all to Acre. They have a larger clinic and more doctors than we have in Carmiel.”
I turned to Zac, my husband, and lost it. “What sort of country is this where a doctor isn’t qualified to stitch? Why didn’t you listen to me and stay in Johannesburg. I knew that this making aliyah lark wasn’t for me or my child. Is this what I left my family and friends for? Now Annie’s health is in danger.”
“Jill, I’m sure Annie will be fine. You remember the poster in the Federation offices at home, ‘We never promised you a rose garden.’ I suppose this is what they meant.”
“Zac, right now I’m fuming. So don’t start with your half-baked propaganda campaign.”
“You know I think our family will have a more secure future in Israel than in South Africa.”
“One more word out of you on this subject and Annie and I are leaving…” When I said it, I think I really meant it.
“Accidents happen. I’ll ask our neighbor Michelle to come along as translator. Will that make you feel better?”
“Not really, but at least we won’t have trouble being understood.” I wasn’t in a forgiving mood.
The ambulance came. Michelle, feeling uncomfortable caught in the heat between Zac and me, said. “Jill, don’t worry, everything will be beseder, hunky-dory.”
“It had better be, or someone is going to pay dearly for this.” I’d been holding little Annie on my lap, trying to imagine the gash on her chin under the bandages, and thinking what I would do to Zac.
He squirmed, but said nothing.
We arrived inAcre. I could smell the salt from the sea in the air. When we found the clinic, it looked deserted. No lights on inside. No sign of activity.
“Where the hell are these bloody people?” I asked.
Michelle got out and read the opening hours on the door. “It’s Monday. They’re closed this afternoon.”
“Is this what you brought us to, Zac? Is nothing normal here? Doctors who can’t stitch, and now clinics closed half the day, a fact that seems to have escaped everyone, even the ambulance driver. Doesn’t anyone know what the hell’s going on?”
“Calm down, Jill, Hon.”
“I’ll calm down when this mess is sorted out,” I snapped. “And don’t you Jill, Hon me. I really don’t like you at this moment.”
I decided to take charge. “What do we do now? Michelle?”
Michelle spoke to the ambulance driver with lots of hand gestures.
“The only thing is to go to the hospital in Nahariya,” Michelle said. “It’s only twenty minutes up the road.”
“Well, what are we waiting for? Let’s get on with it,” I shouted.
Arriving at the crowded emergency room, my jaw dropped. Zac looked equally helpless. But that wasn’t going to save him.
“Michelle, we can’t wait all afternoon. It’s already about six hours since Annie fell. The wound won’t heal properly if it isn’t attended to soon,” I said.
Michelle looked worried. “I don’t know, let me ask around.”
“No, No,” said Zac. “I’ll handle this.”
Zac stood on a chair and shouted at the top of his voice, “Does anyone in this place speak English?”
Everything went quiet. Even I took a step back.
A tall man in green surgical scrubs popped his head out from behind a screen.
“Yes, I do. I’m a doctor. Can I help you?” he said in a South African accent.
Zac got off the chair. “Doctor, please we’ve been chasing our tails around all afternoon with our little girl who split her chin open early this morning. We’ve only been in Israel about two weeks. I’m going crazy with worry. My wife is ready to turn me into your next patient. She never wanted to be in Israel. We don’t speak the language. Please, can you get our daughter’s chin sewn up? I’m sure you can do the job.”
The doctor, realizing our desperation and helplessness in our new surroundings, said. “Come with me. I’ll do it myself, right away.”
I turned to Zac, “You see. I told you we should have stayed in Johannesburg. Even here we needed a South African to save the day.”