Nurses find ‘He­brew’ African vil­lage

The Jewish Chronicle - - News - BY ROBYNROSEN

TWO JEWISH nurs­ing stu­dents had a pleas­ant sur­prise when they trav­elled to an im­pov­er­ished town in Ghana only to dis­cover a health clinic dec­o­rated with Stars of David.

Katie Susser and Sarah Mercer, both third year stu­dents at Birm­ing­ham Uni­ver­sity, have just re­turned from a two-month trip to Tamale, north­ern Ghana.

They vol­un­teered at the Shekhi­nah Clinic, which was founded by Dr David Ab­du­lai in 1989 and is run by lo­cal vol­un­teers, help­ing pa­tients with malaria, HIV and le­prosy.

Ms Mercer, 20, from Manch­ester, said: “It was amaz­ing. We came into the build­ing and saw Ma­gen Davids all over, painted on the gates, in the op­er­at­ing the­atre, on the walls. The word Shekhi­nah [di­vine pres­ence] was writ­ten in He­brew let­ters on the out­side of the build­ing.

“We felt like it was fate and that we were meant to be there.”

Ms Susser, 21, from Finch­ley, said: “It was a re­ally mov­ing and in­spi­ra­tional trip. I went out to Ghana pre­pared for hav­ing a wider cul­tural ex­pe­ri­ence — and then I saw some­thing that made me feel at home.”

Ms Mercer and Ms Susser had trav­elled to Ghana as part of the elec­tive pro­gramme of­fered to nurs­ing stu­dents at Birm­ing­ham Uni­ver­sity.

They trav­elled with Jewish aid char­ity, Tzedek, who housed them with 13 other Jewish vol­un­teers.

Ms Mercer said: “What ap­pealed to us was the op­por­tu­nity to do a project within the Jewish con­text, but in the wider world.

“Dr Ab­du­lai ex­plained his in­ter­est in Ju­daism to us. He had great ad­mi­ra­tion for the Jewish faith.

“We found lots of other lo­cal places that showed an in­ter­est in Jewish im­agery, like a hair­dresser called Shalom Hair.

“There were posters about the links be­tween Is­rael and Ghana and claim­ing that some lost Is­raeli tribes now lived in Ghana. It was re­ally amaz­ing.”

Ms Susser added: “Be­fore­hand, I was slightly ner­vous about be­ing such a mi­nor­ity, but the Ghana­ians were so wel­com­ing and in­clu­sive.

“They were re­ally ex­cited when they found out we were Jewish, be­cause they knew the clinic was based on Jewish con­cepts but they had never met a Jew be­fore.”

Dan Berelowitz, di­rec­tor at Tzedek, said: “Th­ese vol­un­teers’ ex­pe­ri­ences aren’t unique. Peo­ple in Ghana usu­ally don’t know what a Jewish per­son is but if they do, they show an enor­mous amount of re­spect for them.

“I think it’s amaz­ing that the clinic had Jewish sym­bols. Over here in Bri­tain we some­times feel that the whole world at­tacks Jewish peo­ple, but over there they ac­cept Jews with open arms.”

Arms wide open: Sarah Mercer ( left) in Tamale, north­ern Ghana, and ( above) part of the Shekhi­nah Clinic in the vil­lage

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