A memoir both bittersweet and inspiring by an American pediatric oncologist who spent seven years in Jerusalem taking care of Israeli and Palestinian children with one tragic thing in common--a diagnosis of pediatric cancer
In 2007, Elisha Waldman, a New York-based pediatric oncologist and palliative-care specialist in his mid-thirties, was offered his dream job: attending physician at Jerusalem's Hadassah Medical Center. He had gone to medical school in Israel and spent time there as a teenager; now he was going to give something back to the land he loved. But in the wake of a financial crisis at the hospital that left him feeling unsure about his future, Waldman, with considerable regret, left Hadassah in 2014 and returned to America. This Narrow Space is his deeply affecting and poignant memoir of the seven years he spent taking care of children--Israeli Jews, Muslims, and Christians; Palestinian Arabs from the West Bank and Gaza--with one devastating thing in common: they had all been diagnosed with some form of pediatric cancer. Waldman's years at Hadassah were filled in equal measure with a deep sense of accomplishment, with frustration when regional politics sometimes got in the way of his patients' care, and with tension over the fine line he would have to walk when the religious traditions of some of his patients' families made it difficult for him to give these children the care he felt they deserved. Navigating the baffling Israeli bureaucracy, the ever-present threat of war, and the cultural clashes that sometimes spilled over into his clinic, Waldman learned to be content with small victories: a young patient whose disease went into remission, brokenhearted parents whose final hours with their child were made meaningful and comforting.
As he sought to create both a personal and a professional life in his new home, Waldman struggled with his own questions of identity and belief, and with the intractable conflict between Israelis and Palestinians that had become a fact of his daily life. What he learned about himself, about the complex country that he was now a part of, and about the heartbreakingly brave and endearing children he cared for--whether they were from Me'ah She'arim, Ramallah, or Gaza
ELISHA WALDMAN is director of pediatric palliative care at Columbia University Medical Center in New York. He received his B.A. from Yale University and his medical degree from the Sackler School of Medicine in Tel Aviv. He also trained at Mount Sinai Medical Center and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, and at Boston Children's Hospital. His writing has appeared in Bellevue Literary Review. He lives in New York City.