Studium Theologicum Salesianum
Salesian Pontifical University : Faculty of Theology - Jerusalem Campus
  Heart Brothers  

STS Presence at the Israeli discussion on Organ Donation

Ahim Balev” (Heart Brothers), a documentary film by French film maker Esther London was screened at the Jerusalem

Cinemateque on 9 April 2013. The film vividly captures the various colours and shades of emotions involved in a heart transplant when the donated heart of a 19 year old Israeli Jewish soldier who was killed saved the life of an Israeli Arab recipient who then begins to call the soldier’s parents, ‘mom’ and ‘dad’.

The screening of the film was followed by a panel discussion on “Organ Donation”. Experts invited to the discussion were: Professor Jacob Lavee, Cardiac Surgeon, Director of the Department of transplantation, Sheba Medical Centre, Tel Hashomer; Rabbin Dr Avraham Walfish, Senior Instructor at Herzog College and Michlala Jerusalem; and Rev. Dr Biju Michael, Professor of Bioethics and Principal, Studium Theologicum Salesianum, Jerusalem Campus of the Faculty of Theology of the Salesian Pontifical University. The film, and Professor Lavee pointed to the influence of religion in the decision to donate organs. Rabbin Avraham Walfish and Fr Biju Michael answered questions with regard to the stand of their respective religions. Fr Biju stressed the rich magisterial teaching in the Catholic Church that has maintained constant and informed interest in organ donation from the time of Pope Pius XII when the technology began to be developed. John Paul II considered organ donation as a gift of the bio-medical sciences to allow man to “project beyond death their vocation to love”. It is a means to building a “culture of life”. Pope Benedict XVI spoke of organ donation as a “genuine testament of charity” that can foster a “culture of gift and gratitude”. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches organ donation after death to be a “noble and meritorious act”. Inspired by the commandment to “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev 19:18) and by the words of Jesus, “No one can have greater love than to lay down his life for his friends” (Jn 15:13), the Catholic Church has constantly encouraged the free and informed donation of organs and at the same time proposed ethical considerations that will help to harmonize technical progress with ethical rigour. The Church’s concern is the defense and promotion of the inviolable dignity of both the donor and the recipient. Professor Lavee responded that the Church’s clear teaching has paved the way for a majority Catholic country like Spain to be a leader among countries with the highest percentage of organ donations.

The film “Heart Brothers” also interviewed Rev. Dr Fayzal Hijazin, Moral Theology Professor at the Latin Patriarchate Seminary. An Imam and a Rabbi were also interviewed.

A touching moment in the film was Dr Lavee’s words: “I am standing there in the operating room, there’s a moment when I’m holding the Jewish heart in one hand and the Arab heart in the other, and I look down and suddenly it occurs to me, there’s no difference between them.”  Highlighting this, a Palestinian youth present at the discussion pointed out that he would want all of his body to be donated irrespective of who will be the recipient. However, actualizing his today would need a lot of political will. But certainly, the screening of the film and discussions of this type are surely a way to change hearts in favour of the “service to life” through organ donation.

Heart Brothers
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