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This Narrow Space: A Pediatric Oncologist, His Jewish, Muslim, and Christian Patients, and a Hospital in Jerusalem

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A memoir both bittersweet and inspiring by an American pediatric oncologist who spent seven years in Jerusalem treating children--Israeli Jews, Muslims, and Christians, and Palestinian Arabs from the West Bank and Gaza--who had all been diagnosed with cancer. In 2007, Elisha Waldman, a New York-based doctor in his mid-thirties, was offered his dream job: attending physician A memoir both bittersweet and inspiring by an American pediatric oncologist who spent seven years in Jerusalem treating children--Israeli Jews, Muslims, and Christians, and Palestinian Arabs from the West Bank and Gaza--who had all been diagnosed with cancer. In 2007, Elisha Waldman, a New York-based doctor 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, Waldman, with considerable regret, left Hadassah in 2014 and returned to the United States. This Narrow Space is his poignant memoir of seven years that were filled with a deep sense of accomplishment but also with frustration when regional politics got in the way of his patients' care, and with tension over the fine line he had to walk when the religious traditions of some of his patients' families made it difficult for him to give those children the care he felt they deserved. Navigating the baffling Israeli bureaucracy, the ever-present threat of full-scale war, and the cultural clashes that sometimes spilled 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. Waldman also 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 brave and endearing children he cared for--whether they were from Rehavia, Me'ah She'arim, Ramallah, or Gaza City--will move and challenge readers everywhere.


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A memoir both bittersweet and inspiring by an American pediatric oncologist who spent seven years in Jerusalem treating children--Israeli Jews, Muslims, and Christians, and Palestinian Arabs from the West Bank and Gaza--who had all been diagnosed with cancer. In 2007, Elisha Waldman, a New York-based doctor in his mid-thirties, was offered his dream job: attending physician A memoir both bittersweet and inspiring by an American pediatric oncologist who spent seven years in Jerusalem treating children--Israeli Jews, Muslims, and Christians, and Palestinian Arabs from the West Bank and Gaza--who had all been diagnosed with cancer. In 2007, Elisha Waldman, a New York-based doctor 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, Waldman, with considerable regret, left Hadassah in 2014 and returned to the United States. This Narrow Space is his poignant memoir of seven years that were filled with a deep sense of accomplishment but also with frustration when regional politics got in the way of his patients' care, and with tension over the fine line he had to walk when the religious traditions of some of his patients' families made it difficult for him to give those children the care he felt they deserved. Navigating the baffling Israeli bureaucracy, the ever-present threat of full-scale war, and the cultural clashes that sometimes spilled 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. Waldman also 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 brave and endearing children he cared for--whether they were from Rehavia, Me'ah She'arim, Ramallah, or Gaza City--will move and challenge readers everywhere.

30 review for This Narrow Space: A Pediatric Oncologist, His Jewish, Muslim, and Christian Patients, and a Hospital in Jerusalem

  1. 4 out of 5

    Petra X on hiatus (or trying to be)

    I never managed to come up with a proper review for this amazing, heartrending and extremely disturbing book but I want to try and clear my 'currently reading' by the end of the year. The best review I read, and many on GR are very good, is this one by a Vine reader on Amazon. I'm going to quote it in full here, in spoilers. (view spoiler)[ This book is fascinating and instructive on so many levels, as Dr. Elisha Waldman tells of his years treating children with cancer in Israel. I felt that I le I never managed to come up with a proper review for this amazing, heartrending and extremely disturbing book but I want to try and clear my 'currently reading' by the end of the year. The best review I read, and many on GR are very good, is this one by a Vine reader on Amazon. I'm going to quote it in full here, in spoilers. (view spoiler)[ This book is fascinating and instructive on so many levels, as Dr. Elisha Waldman tells of his years treating children with cancer in Israel. I felt that I learned so much about cancer and its treatment;about the various issues physicians deal with; about the way hospitals work; about the way parents deal with the heartbreak of a child's severe, perhaps life threatening illness; about the challenges of living in Israel; about various religious customs and cultural differences; about what it was like to treat Palestinian patients in this tense situation; and about the ongoing fear that violence could erupt at any time and become prolonged and widespread. Throughout all of this, Dr. Waldman shares his inner journey with us, and gives the impression of being sincere, sensitive, caring, and deeply devoted to his work and his patients. He writes openly about his own ambivalent feelings about various cancer treatments; his disdain for local and hospital politics; and the complexities of trying to give good medical treatment in a place where divisions are so intense. In his own words: "I want to believe that illness and medicine transcend politics. I want to be an impartial healer. But sometimes I just can't; that's just the reality we live with here." "Like many Israelis, I feel conflicted about the military check-points, not to mention the "separation barrier" that wends its way across the hills. Having lived in Israel during the terrorist bombing campaigns of the 1990's, I am familiar with the constant anxiety of living under the threat of violence, how an unremarkable day spent running errands of meeting friends for coffee can without warning be transformed into a scene of horror. Like everyone else, I want everything possible to be done to prevent a return to those terrible times. But as a human being, as a Zionist, as someone who has come to Israel with a dream of what the place could be, the wall is a painful reminder of how far away peace can feel, how intense the hatred can be. When I treat my Palestinian patients I try not to think too much about what these sick children have to endure to get home. I am living a privileged life in which I can avoid thinking about that sort of thing if I want to. But as I drive back to Tel Aviv in the evening and think about going for a job by the sea or out with friends for a beer, I find myself wondering if my patients are still standing at a checkpoint, waiting to get home." Sensitive, accessible writing that drew me in like a magnet' fascinating and thought provoking questions raised and addressed, and so much to ponder about human rights, life and death medical issues, and the ideal of relieving suffering despite age old political barriers.I made my way through this book slowly, in order to stop more moments of reflection often. Highly recommended. (hide spoiler)] All the other reviews that I read, good and to the point as they were, all ignore the elephant in the room. We must be politically correct above all else, we must follow the popular line. As the other reviews say, the staff at the Jerusalem hospital was Christian, Muslim and Palestinian as well as Jewish and Israeli or in the case of the author, American. The patients of this pediatric oncology unit were similarly diverse. Anyone who could get there would be treated. That's the elephant right there. In the West Bank and Gaza there were very often deliberate obstacles - no referrals, straight out refusals for these children with cancer and their parents to travel to Israel for treatment. I don't want to get into why the children needed to go to an Israeli treatment centre rather than one of the sixty of so Palestinian ones, but many of us need to travel for treatment for many reasons, and to deny a child the possible right to life, is to me, not the time to pursue war. That made me very sad. It's a brilliant book, a sensitive one, but ultimately a sad one, as all books about children's cancer will be until a cure is found. Written, not rewritten, 8th December 2019

  2. 5 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    This book changed me!!! ... about cancer, treatments, chemotherapy, about religion, politics, about how ‘any’ pediatric oncologist does his job day in and day out- let alone in one of the most complicated- places in the world. This book was MUCH MUCH MUCH more than I thought I was gambling with when I bought it. It’s incredibly personal - page turning.. stories that you’ll never shake away! I seriously recommend it!!!!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Canadian Reader

    Beautifully, fluently, and honestly written, this is a superb memoir about a children’s cancer doctor practising in a complex, politically and religiously charged region: Jerusalem. It represents Dr. Waldman’s efforts to find his place in the world—personally, professionally, and geographically. However, the book is also an account of what it is like to be an American immigrant to Israel (straddling two cultures and not feeling certain of one’s place in either) as well as a meditation on the mys Beautifully, fluently, and honestly written, this is a superb memoir about a children’s cancer doctor practising in a complex, politically and religiously charged region: Jerusalem. It represents Dr. Waldman’s efforts to find his place in the world—personally, professionally, and geographically. However, the book is also an account of what it is like to be an American immigrant to Israel (straddling two cultures and not feeling certain of one’s place in either) as well as a meditation on the mystery of suffering . Waldman tells many stories about diverse families and young patients who are making their final journey. I learned a tremendous amount from reading this book and was profoundly moved by some of the stories the author related. I hope Elisha Waldman will consider writing more about the intersection of medicine, culture, and spirituality.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Vegan

    Wow! 5-1/2 stars! This book is by yet another spectacular doctor writer. He’s a wonderful storyteller & writer. And he’s top-notch in every way. Honest, introspective, thoughtful, smart. Unbelievably great book! Amazing! This is a gem of a book, with many gems within. It was so hard to put down. I hope he writes more books; I would love one specifically on his subspecialty of palliative care. There is quite a bit about palliative care in this book. This account works as an autobiography, a pediatri Wow! 5-1/2 stars! This book is by yet another spectacular doctor writer. He’s a wonderful storyteller & writer. And he’s top-notch in every way. Honest, introspective, thoughtful, smart. Unbelievably great book! Amazing! This is a gem of a book, with many gems within. It was so hard to put down. I hope he writes more books; I would love one specifically on his subspecialty of palliative care. There is quite a bit about palliative care in this book. This account works as an autobiography, a pediatric oncology book, a palliative care book, a book about Israel & its cultural differences and politics, as a book about hospitals too. I learned a lot about Israel just from reading the stories of various people covered here. I enjoy cancer books, but even readers who don’t might enjoy this one, despite covering the heartbreaking topic of pediatric oncology including deaths of some patients. He’s religious and I am not but his musings didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the book and I found his thoughts and feelings fascinating, and they added immeasurably to the account. I really liked following his personal progress and growth and got attached to so many of the people he writes about in these pages. It’s not unheard of but it’s not typical for me to come across completely unfamiliar words when I read books in any genre but at least two new words for me: simulacrum and imprimatur. I do wish there was a table of contents that showed the chapter titles before getting to them so here they are: 1. Protocols 2. Off the Map 3. Borders 4. Silence 5. Home 6. The Proximity of Danger 7. The Forces That Give Us Meaning 8. Honey From Gaza 9. The Persistence of Memory 10. Little Wins 11. Passages 12. Abandonment Epilogue Acknowledgements About The Author There is no way I can do his book justice. It felt really special to me. It’s on the top end of my 5 star books. If we could use half stars many of my 5 star books would actually be 4-1/2 star books but this one I’d give 5 full stars. Recommended for most readers. Feel free to ask me/others any questions if you are unsure if this book is for you. Yes, it’s a tough subject but it’s 100% worthwhile.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Bob H

    A sensitive and compelling memoir by an American Jewish doctor who headed a pediatric oncology ward -- that is to say, children with cancer -- at Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem for several years. His challenges are considerable, given that he is dealing with children in life-threatening illnesses, and their families; often, he tells us, they come through it -- sometimes they don't. These families are Israeli Jewish, Israeli Arab, Palestinian, from both sides of the line, and he has to deal with A sensitive and compelling memoir by an American Jewish doctor who headed a pediatric oncology ward -- that is to say, children with cancer -- at Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem for several years. His challenges are considerable, given that he is dealing with children in life-threatening illnesses, and their families; often, he tells us, they come through it -- sometimes they don't. These families are Israeli Jewish, Israeli Arab, Palestinian, from both sides of the line, and he has to deal with the linguistic, cultural, and security complications this raises. His own staff are varied -- his head nurse is an Arab from West Jerusalem, who becomes a friend and trusted colleague -- and he himself is going through a personal transition, as an immigrant to Israel, committed enough to volunteer for military service at a troubled time in history. He is dealing with families who are seeking not just treatment for their children, but seeking to be making decisions, often culturally or religious in nature, as that illness progresses. He comes through, in his telling, as thoughtful and considerate in dealing with each family in a profound and difficult time in their family and in a conflicted time. It's a multi-faceted journey. He struggles with questions of religion and theodicy -- why would a God allow this kind of illness and death in children? -- and he realizes that the patients and families, of whatever religion, will need some sort of spiritual treatment as the illnesses progress, not just the sort of spiritual treatment a hospital chaplain might provide. He finds his professional training and inclination moving to new models of palliative care -- palliative meaning not just end-of-life but new models of holistic care. He is also there at a time when Hadassah is facing severe financial problems which affect his work and his ward. It's a compelling story and well worth the reader's time.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Joseph Sciuto

    There are memoirs, and then there are memoirs. "This Narrow Space: A Pediatric Oncologist, His Jewish, Muslim, and Christian Patients, and a Hospital In Jerusalem" falls into the category "and then there are memoirs." The author, Elisha Waldman, has written a memoir that is both sobering and rewarding as he takes us inside a Pediatric Oncologist Department at a Jewish Hospital in Jerusalem named Hadassah. Dr. Waldman, an American Jew, with strong family and religious ties to Israel relocates to I There are memoirs, and then there are memoirs. "This Narrow Space: A Pediatric Oncologist, His Jewish, Muslim, and Christian Patients, and a Hospital In Jerusalem" falls into the category "and then there are memoirs." The author, Elisha Waldman, has written a memoir that is both sobering and rewarding as he takes us inside a Pediatric Oncologist Department at a Jewish Hospital in Jerusalem named Hadassah. Dr. Waldman, an American Jew, with strong family and religious ties to Israel relocates to Israel to work at the Hospital where the patients and the staff are a mixture of Jews, Muslims, and Christians and together they form a unit that works together to help and support children of all religions who are suffering from terrible cancers. While they navigate collectively to help all the children and their parents and relatives at all the stages of treatment, and in some cases simply to alleviate the pain and make patients as comfortable as possible who are at the end of life, the scene and politics and violence outside the hospital depict a picture so disturbing and horrifying that you wonder if there is any humanity left in the warring factions: factions who represent a small minority of the Arab and the Jewish populations but nevertheless create devastating effects and consequences for families seeking help for their sick children.  Mr. Waldman's memoir might be the best in your face reality of what goes on in this part of the world that I have ever read. It is an engrossing piece of work and, throughout I found myself giving thanks to the brave men and women who work in a field that on its best days are difficult and on its worst days it could have you questioning everything you ever believed in. This is a piece of work that is going to stay with me for a very long time. It is simply amazing.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Teresa

    "This Narrow Space" is incredibly well written, honest, and compelling! While dealing with some very delicate issues, namely the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and life-threatening pediatric illness, Dr. Waldman manages to express his observations and views without voicing any obnoxious political opinions! He is idealistic, yet humble; brilliant, yet ever eager to seek and to learn. He speaks of everyone with respect. I went into this book interested in the cultural and medical experiences of an a "This Narrow Space" is incredibly well written, honest, and compelling! While dealing with some very delicate issues, namely the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and life-threatening pediatric illness, Dr. Waldman manages to express his observations and views without voicing any obnoxious political opinions! He is idealistic, yet humble; brilliant, yet ever eager to seek and to learn. He speaks of everyone with respect. I went into this book interested in the cultural and medical experiences of an accomplished physician; I came out blown away by the reflections of a profoundly gifted writer.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Barbara H

    Elisha Waldman has penned an intriguing memoir related to many perspectives His intelligence, resourcefulness and empathy all shine through these pages. He is an highly educated, experienced physician/ oncologist who has chosen to devote his life to the care and treatment of children with life- threatening diseases. His efforts were situated in the US and Israel, tending Jewish, Muslim and Christian patients. His ties to Judaism and his apparent devotion to the religion are of interest to me, esp Elisha Waldman has penned an intriguing memoir related to many perspectives His intelligence, resourcefulness and empathy all shine through these pages. He is an highly educated, experienced physician/ oncologist who has chosen to devote his life to the care and treatment of children with life- threatening diseases. His efforts were situated in the US and Israel, tending Jewish, Muslim and Christian patients. His ties to Judaism and his apparent devotion to the religion are of interest to me, especially because I am not observant. I am not critical of this fact, but impressed by his adherence despite his exposure to raids, attacks, bombings and deaths and numerous disfigurements of innocent infants, children and adults. Considering all this, his piety seems all the more remarkable. His writings do include periods where he questioned his faith, or Theodicy, but he remained strong. Early in the book, Waldman questioned struggling with the pain and dying children around him and how other colleagues managed. His sensitivity and reasoning were instructive. - were they so secure in their faith that they found solace in God, or Jesus, or Buddha, or whoever they believed was looking out for these poor souls? Did anyone really believe, as I often heard someone whisper after a child's death, that 'they are in a better place'? Whenever I would hear this, I would inwardly grumble that if I truly believed that, I would immediately go there myself. (I would too!) p.21 Is it just that human beings are capable of looking back on tragedy and interpreting it in a way that allows us to make some sense of it and grow from it...? p21-22 When questioning all that he had seen and struggling with much of this, his reasoning made some sense to him when he discussed the views of Rabbi Harold Kushner in his book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People . Waldman stated that he only wanted the best for his patients, but sometimes the miracle they had hoped for could not happen. There is much more to glean from this book, but the reader can view the frustrations and successes he achieved in communications with the families of wide assortment of cultural differences. Certainly the determination and advances he attained both personally and medically for his patients was impressive. It amazes me that this accomplished, brilliant physiscian was able to find time and effort to produce this book.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Marisa James

    Disclaimer: Dr Waldman was my brother’s pediatric oncologist, and I also lived in Jerusalem for several years around the same time, and became involved in trying to help a Palestinian child with cancer, who Dr Waldman also treated, so I came to this book with a history that almost guaranteed that I’d fall in love with every word. It was an incredible experience to read this and get a window into what the doctor thinks and feels when treating patients and communicating with families after having Disclaimer: Dr Waldman was my brother’s pediatric oncologist, and I also lived in Jerusalem for several years around the same time, and became involved in trying to help a Palestinian child with cancer, who Dr Waldman also treated, so I came to this book with a history that almost guaranteed that I’d fall in love with every word. It was an incredible experience to read this and get a window into what the doctor thinks and feels when treating patients and communicating with families after having been one of those family members myself, and to relive parts of my Jerusalem experience (which was quite different than Dr Waldman’s, but which also included a lot of growing and discomfort and border-crossing and attempts at healing). It’s a powerful, personal, wonderful read. I cried on the subway. Highly, highly recommended.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Marika

    Dr. Elisha Waldman writes about the struggles and barriers he faces after he moves from the U.S. to Israel to work as a Pediatric Oncologist. He spent 7 years treating children including Israeli Jews, Muslims, and Christians, Palestinian Arabs from the West Bank and Gaza. What began as an altruistic thought/practice became bogged down by political red tape and he finds himself questioning those around him, as well as himself. Physicians, and religious leaders must read this book. I read an advan Dr. Elisha Waldman writes about the struggles and barriers he faces after he moves from the U.S. to Israel to work as a Pediatric Oncologist. He spent 7 years treating children including Israeli Jews, Muslims, and Christians, Palestinian Arabs from the West Bank and Gaza. What began as an altruistic thought/practice became bogged down by political red tape and he finds himself questioning those around him, as well as himself. Physicians, and religious leaders must read this book. I read an advance copy and was not compensated.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Bob

    In this spellbinding book, Dr. Elisha Waldman describes the moving and unforgettable journey he took as a pediatric oncologist practicing at the world renowned Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem. This American physician arranged to make his aliyah to Israel in the hopes of serving the most desperate of all patients- the children suffering from cancer from all walks of life, including Arabs, Christians and Jews. The Hadassah is a crucible of conflicting cultures, religions, languages all competing to In this spellbinding book, Dr. Elisha Waldman describes the moving and unforgettable journey he took as a pediatric oncologist practicing at the world renowned Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem. This American physician arranged to make his aliyah to Israel in the hopes of serving the most desperate of all patients- the children suffering from cancer from all walks of life, including Arabs, Christians and Jews. The Hadassah is a crucible of conflicting cultures, religions, languages all competing together for the attention of the oncology department's attention ...yet it has one common denominator- the terrible need for comforting a child and his/her parents when facing a mortal prognosis. To make matters worse, Dr. Waldman struggles with the obstacles of treating his patients in the midst of war between Israel and Hamas occupied Gaza. The political and religious tensions are tremendous, and forces this doctor to take a more personal inventory of his spirituality to help him cope with the realities of ministering to both Israeli and Palestinian patients alike. This book is fascinating, poignant and unforgettable. It is a must for anyone who wishes to see humanity at its best and its worst, with hope as the only means of staying sane in such a conflicting environment as carrying out a pediatric oncology practice in the midst of war, economic, political and economic drama.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Fatima M. Nabil

    This book is written by someone who identifies as an Israeli, who writes about his time in Israel....because of who I am and where I was raised, I see myself belonging to the opposite side of the conflict, but I related to him, I am also a doctor, and I too believe that medical care should be available to everyone who needs it, regardless of their identity, I also feel heartbroken by the crisis in the middle East, I also feel disgusted by the pure hate and racism against innocent people. . As a yo This book is written by someone who identifies as an Israeli, who writes about his time in Israel....because of who I am and where I was raised, I see myself belonging to the opposite side of the conflict, but I related to him, I am also a doctor, and I too believe that medical care should be available to everyone who needs it, regardless of their identity, I also feel heartbroken by the crisis in the middle East, I also feel disgusted by the pure hate and racism against innocent people. . As a young doctor, I also feel confused and undecided about my career, what exactly is my goal and where, I have also dealt with dying children, I too had similar theological questions, I related to many of his dilemmas, medical, ethical, religious and political, even the bureaucracy he hated so much, we have that too. . The beginning of the book was hard to read, he starts with describing Israel as his dream home, he travels to it and gets a national ID easily, my Palestinian friends and their parents can't do that, they can't go back to their cities and feel at home unlike him, an american, but as I read further it got easier, as he saw the other side and wrote honestly about it...he too was sometimes as angry as I was, as shocked as I was. . This book gave me a tour in Israel, it gave me an insight into the lives of Arabs there, the different types of Jews too, it gave me an insight into pediatric oncology and palliative care, it gave me a different vantage point into the Arab Israeli conflict, and last but not least, it gave me some hope, if more people on the other side had as much compassion as he did, as one Palestinian parent of his patient told him "Maybe things would be different then."

  13. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    This book brought up such a variety of feelings for me. First, there is so much sadness. Kids dying of cancer (the author works mostly with kids who do not recover) is already tragic. Put it in the context of Israel, where some of the families are Jewish and some Arab/Palestinian, and where the Palestinians are already so disadvantaged and face so many logistical hardships in getting care for their kids, and it's almost unbearably sad. The hospital staff worked on providing the same standard of This book brought up such a variety of feelings for me. First, there is so much sadness. Kids dying of cancer (the author works mostly with kids who do not recover) is already tragic. Put it in the context of Israel, where some of the families are Jewish and some Arab/Palestinian, and where the Palestinians are already so disadvantaged and face so many logistical hardships in getting care for their kids, and it's almost unbearably sad. The hospital staff worked on providing the same standard of care to all patients and their families, which was sweet, but that was just a small part of a bigger context. There are only brief glimpses into how the Palestinians live, but they are heartbreaking. The situation is horrible, and in my opinion, the government should work a lot harder to improve it. Instead, they continue to make it worse, using military force where humanitarian aid would be more appropriate. So, when that author writes about how he worked with the military, I had mixed feelings. Yes, he was working as a doctor so not actively hurting anyone. But I had trouble with a certain flavor of his pride at serving his adopted country. I also had trouble with his religiosity. I am Jewish but not religious. He is respectful of other religious beliefs, including Islam. But he devotes a section to talking about how doctors haven't been taught about how to incorporate spirituality into their medical practices, and how they should. I definitely agree that doctors should have, and should be taught, better ways to support patients and families. I tried and failed to understand how putting it into a context of "spirituality" would be preferable to considering it emotional support. Honestly, it would offend me if a doctor spoke to me about my spiritual well-being; either they would mean my emotional well-being, or they would be pushing their belief in something ineffable and religious-ish on me. (And I have had doctors do that with new-agey stuff.) Also, the author has a very strong personality. I would probably like him, but he's quite self-involved and, yes, pushy. He talks about being respectful of cultural differences and of individual families' wishes. But sometimes he seemed to be sure that his opinions were right and others' were not. Since I mostly agree with his opinions, this only bothered me a few times, including the military and spiritual subjects noted above. And then there was the account he gave of mountain climbing in Nepal, where he behaved like a stupid jock and could have killed himself. Yet he seemed proud of himself and exhilarated from the brush with mortality, and ready to do it again. I enjoyed learning about his developing field of pediatric palliative care. This is new to me, and sounds like it's an excellent adjunct that fills needs that other care has not provided. The book is well written. He lays himself right out there, showing his thoughts, feelings, philosophies, opinions, and personal development. The beginning of the book was a slow read, but once he got mostly past introducing himself, I found it compelling. Reading it was an intense experience.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Joanne Duhl

    This is a beautiful book - certainly not what one would expect to say about a book that has the words "pediatric oncologist" in its title. Certainly the individual stories of children with incurable cancers were devastating, but the author presents the world of Hadassah Medical Center as a warm and very caring place that seeks to treat all children and families regardless of their religion or geography. And he uses his work with these children to show the challenges of working and living in Isra This is a beautiful book - certainly not what one would expect to say about a book that has the words "pediatric oncologist" in its title. Certainly the individual stories of children with incurable cancers were devastating, but the author presents the world of Hadassah Medical Center as a warm and very caring place that seeks to treat all children and families regardless of their religion or geography. And he uses his work with these children to show the challenges of working and living in Israel, where some children face sometimes insurmountable barriers in getting to the hospital for their treatments and the people who are working tirelessly to save their lives may be the same people who are participating in military actions against their villages. In telling the stories of the families he worked with, Waldman demonstrates the shared traditions and customs of Muslim and Jewish families - in terms of the role religion plays in their medical decision making, their responses to dying and how they bury their dead, as well as the similarities in his interactions with very religious women of both faiths. Waldman also tells a little bit about his own personal story and how he grew and changed through his work at Hadassah. This is certainly not a book I would have chosen to read, so thank you Josh.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kolumbina

    A very special book, a memoir written by Dr Elisha Waldman, pediatric oncologist, who spent some time working in Jerusalem's Hadassah hospital. His patients (children and younger adults) were Jews, Muslims, Christians, Palestinian Arabs from West Bank and Gaza all with cancers, most of them without any hope. Not an easy read, still outstanding, excellent. A well written book, an unusual story. Recommended reading for non-fiction readers. A very special book, a memoir written by Dr Elisha Waldman, pediatric oncologist, who spent some time working in Jerusalem's Hadassah hospital. His patients (children and younger adults) were Jews, Muslims, Christians, Palestinian Arabs from West Bank and Gaza all with cancers, most of them without any hope. Not an easy read, still outstanding, excellent. A well written book, an unusual story. Recommended reading for non-fiction readers.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Shirley Freeman

    Profound. A beautiful addition to the conversation around palliative care. While it can be discouraging to read about children with cancer and about the enduring conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, Waldman's voice is one of hope in the midst of the madness. Profound. A beautiful addition to the conversation around palliative care. While it can be discouraging to read about children with cancer and about the enduring conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, Waldman's voice is one of hope in the midst of the madness.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Melissa Tevlin

    Author spent about two-thirds of the book complaining about how Israel was mean to him (for expecting him to what was expected of everyone else living in Israel). The few times he actually mentioned a patient, the book was average.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kerry Pickens

    This is the story of an American pediatric oncologist who makes Aliyah to Israel, and finds that the culture can be challenging. He is the son of a rabbi, and I enjoyed the relationship that he shares between his Jewish practice and his medical practice. The part that was disturbing is when religiously conservative parents refuse cancer treatment for their daughters, and prefer to let them die rather than be disfigured with surgery or chemotherapy. That's about as heartless as you can get. This is the story of an American pediatric oncologist who makes Aliyah to Israel, and finds that the culture can be challenging. He is the son of a rabbi, and I enjoyed the relationship that he shares between his Jewish practice and his medical practice. The part that was disturbing is when religiously conservative parents refuse cancer treatment for their daughters, and prefer to let them die rather than be disfigured with surgery or chemotherapy. That's about as heartless as you can get.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Margaret Klein

    This is a challenging, important work documenting the life at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, a world class teaching and research hospital. The author, an American Jewish, son of a rabbi, trained in Israel as a pediatric oncologist, returns to Israel, the land that he loves, as an attending physician at this amazing hospital noted for its willingness and commitment to treat Jews, Christians and Muslims. The work of pediatric oncology is particularly difficult, forcing doctors, nurses, everyone o This is a challenging, important work documenting the life at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, a world class teaching and research hospital. The author, an American Jewish, son of a rabbi, trained in Israel as a pediatric oncologist, returns to Israel, the land that he loves, as an attending physician at this amazing hospital noted for its willingness and commitment to treat Jews, Christians and Muslims. The work of pediatric oncology is particularly difficult, forcing doctors, nurses, everyone on the care team to have impossibly difficult conversations with patients and their families. Waldman does a great job of discussing the cultural nuances in even more difficult circumstances...impending war, politics that often make no sense, getting families across check points, a financial crisis a the hospital. All the while, we are "treated" to the interior life of this physician as he wrestles with how to provide the best care possible to his young patients. This book was the November 2019 Gail Borden Public Library National Jewish Book Group book. It is well worth the read, even as it is difficult to contemplate young patients having such life threatening issues. He is forced to wrestle with some of the deepest questions of life--why do people suffer and where is G-d.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Gaby Chapman

    American Jewish Pediatric Oncologist muses on his years in Israeli children's hospital. American Jewish Pediatric Oncologist muses on his years in Israeli children's hospital.

  21. 4 out of 5

    carolyn jacobs

    Excellent and thought- provoking book This memoir is written by a pediatric oncologist who moves to Israel to work in the Hadassah hospital. He experiences a lot of ambiguity in his relationships with patients, parents and co workers he has visited Israel but now he is a citizen. He experiences ambiguity I relating to patients, families,co workers and in adjusting to life in a different country. I rarely give 5 stars. This book deserves it!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen Birch

    Definitely a memoir and not a book with just medical stories. I haven’t read much about the challenges of the people living in Israel and this was eloquently written. The author’s reflections on his life, the life of his patients and their families and the citizens of Israel are touching and introspective. Worth the time to read.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Truong Tang

    Elisha Waldman chose a perfect poem to start the book. That alone made me finish this book in only several days considering my laziness when it comes to reading books recently. Joke aside, this is one of the best non-fiction books I have ever read.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Laura Boudreau

    Wonderful book, written with warmth and honesty. Just way too short!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Katrina Lorfeld

    Heartbreaking and hope giving at the same time.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Laura Cobrinik

    Elisha Waldman's book, "This Narrow Space: A Pediatric Oncologist, His Jewish, Muslim and Christian Patients, and a Hospital in Jerusalem is a memoir of a Pediatric Oncologist who appears very smart, who has a duel love for both The United States and Israel. Waldman who as a child along with his family spent time in both countries. A smart pre-med graduate from Yale University, Waldman enters a Medical School in Tel Aviv and then returns to Boston's children's Hospital for a fellowship in Pediat Elisha Waldman's book, "This Narrow Space: A Pediatric Oncologist, His Jewish, Muslim and Christian Patients, and a Hospital in Jerusalem is a memoir of a Pediatric Oncologist who appears very smart, who has a duel love for both The United States and Israel. Waldman who as a child along with his family spent time in both countries. A smart pre-med graduate from Yale University, Waldman enters a Medical School in Tel Aviv and then returns to Boston's children's Hospital for a fellowship in Pediatric Oncology. Waldman then returns to Israel where he lands a job in the Department of Pediatric Oncology and Hemotology at Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem--at this point Waldman opts to live in Tel Aviv so that he is not so close to his job, where he gets very attached to his patients and their families. After encountering many of these young patients dying, and having doubts as to how religious Waldman wants to be and with learning more about the religious and secular aspects of Judaism, it appears that Waldman starts to get "burn out" and wants to learn how to make his patients and their families more comfortable in their dying days, so he leaves his post at Hadassah to take another fellowship in Pediatric Palletive Care at Boston's Children's Hospital. A new popular subspecialty in America but not in Israel. After completing this Fellowship Waldman returns to his other "Homeland" in Israel an at Hadassah Medical Center to try to start a Pediatric Palletive Department at Hadassah. With a war breaking out between Gaza, the Palestinians, and Israel, outside the hospital; and the fact that their is a strike at Hadassah things look bleak for Waldman to keep his job at Hadassah and in Israel. In the mean time Waldman is offered a job at Columbia-Presbyetarian Hospital in New York City.... Also before Waldman leaves for New York he finds a Muslim Nurse at Hadassah whom he falls in love with and supports the move to New York. A memoir with much hardship, Waldman is certainly shown as a very caring doctor who feels the pain of his patients and what to make them comfortable and give them less pain as they struggle with life and death symptoms as well as with chronic illnesses which may last a lifetime but with may even had times of remission. Waldman comes out as a very sensitive doctor who seems to have a love-hate-and love relationship with his two Homelands, i.e. The United States of American and also with Israel. What drew me to this book is that my brother is a Research Scientist in the field of Retiniablastom at Children's Hospital in Los Angeles, and also that my Dad, a retired Pediatrician has been dealing with Prostate Cancer for 30 + years now--and before that he had skin cancer--with another skin cancer in the past five years--which he as survived by being very responsible with his diets and forcing a moderate approach to exercise--Which is good for a man who will be 92 next week. I feel that this book should be required reading for every Medical School Student. Waldman also shows that a good doctor believes that Empathy and Kindness are traits that are extremely important when treating patients. Laura Cobrinik, Boonton Township, NJ

  27. 4 out of 5

    Tanya

    Two distinct themes run through This Narrow Space: identity in Israel, and the ideas of palliative care. Elisha Waldman, a Jewish-American pediatric oncologist, made aliyah and became an Israeli. During his years working at Haddasah Hospital in Jerusalem he treated Muslim, Christian, Orthodox, and Reformed Jews of all varieties, and learned much from his cultural experiences. His memoir gives glimpses into these cultures, as well as providing commentary on the Israeli-Palestinian political situa Two distinct themes run through This Narrow Space: identity in Israel, and the ideas of palliative care. Elisha Waldman, a Jewish-American pediatric oncologist, made aliyah and became an Israeli. During his years working at Haddasah Hospital in Jerusalem he treated Muslim, Christian, Orthodox, and Reformed Jews of all varieties, and learned much from his cultural experiences. His memoir gives glimpses into these cultures, as well as providing commentary on the Israeli-Palestinian political situation, particularly in how this affects patient care for those living on the West Bank. He also explores his own identity: where is home, and will he ever feel completely a part of Israeli society? I was fascinated by all of this. I was much less interested in his discussions about palliative care, the subspecialty of medicine he found himself drifting toward. While I can see it would be helpful in many situations, I can't help but question its role in our procedure-driven healthcare system, especially in terms of insurance reimbursement. Anyway, it seemed his mission to convince his reader how valuable his chosen field really is, even though we find that Hadassah Hospital, with its financial crisis, reneged on its agreement to let him set up a palliative care service. 3.5 stars.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Cathy

    This book seemed made for me. It’s about pediatrics, life and death, and based in Jerusalem. However, at the beginning of the book I was nonplussed. The author was so overjoyed to have made aliyah to Israel, that he almost seemed naive. It was so enthusiastic I was wary. Then the book talked about pediatric oncology and some of his patients. This is pretty grim stuff, unless you’re in pediatrics. I was planning to give a three starred review until I hit the latter part of the book. This is where This book seemed made for me. It’s about pediatrics, life and death, and based in Jerusalem. However, at the beginning of the book I was nonplussed. The author was so overjoyed to have made aliyah to Israel, that he almost seemed naive. It was so enthusiastic I was wary. Then the book talked about pediatric oncology and some of his patients. This is pretty grim stuff, unless you’re in pediatrics. I was planning to give a three starred review until I hit the latter part of the book. This is where he gets into the abhorrent bureaucratic challenges of treating Arab patients from Gaza, the prejudices between peoples, the understanding between those same peoples who are often pitted against each other, and the terror of living through a flare up of “the situation.” This part of the book was excellent because he met his ambivalence and fear squarely on the page. This book was worth it for me, just to read those final chapters. (I listened to this as an audiobook, which I don’t advise. The narrator was stilted, which almost made me stop listening to the book entirely.)

  29. 4 out of 5

    Lee

    One value of book clubs is that you end up reading books that you would otherwise pass by. I would never have read this excellent book if one of my book clubs had not selected it. It is fascinating on so many levels. The stories of his patients, their families, and the dedicated medical professionals who treat them was spellbinding. His sensitivity (and that of his team) to the medical issues, religious and cultural beliefs, and daily circumstances of his patients and their families reveal how m One value of book clubs is that you end up reading books that you would otherwise pass by. I would never have read this excellent book if one of my book clubs had not selected it. It is fascinating on so many levels. The stories of his patients, their families, and the dedicated medical professionals who treat them was spellbinding. His sensitivity (and that of his team) to the medical issues, religious and cultural beliefs, and daily circumstances of his patients and their families reveal how medicine and the broader world might operate more effectively and humanistically. His own search for identity - professional, national, and religious - as well as his introspection and reflection makes the story even more interesting. Through the microcosm of the pediatric oncology ward the complexity of the region is evident in even the smallest things. The day to day interactions in the hospital make crystal clear both the hope and tragedy of the broader socio political environment.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Mindy Danylak

    This book rings as harmonic with my very heartbeat. Moves me to laughter and tears. It's only February but it will turn out to be one of my favorite books of the year. One of my favorite quotes ever is from Gustave Thibon: "Do not run or fly away in order to become free. Rather, go deep into the narrow space given you. There you will find God and all things." Elisha Waldman has to know these words. This Narrow Space is a memoir of what life, what beauty, there is when we go deep....and a reminde This book rings as harmonic with my very heartbeat. Moves me to laughter and tears. It's only February but it will turn out to be one of my favorite books of the year. One of my favorite quotes ever is from Gustave Thibon: "Do not run or fly away in order to become free. Rather, go deep into the narrow space given you. There you will find God and all things." Elisha Waldman has to know these words. This Narrow Space is a memoir of what life, what beauty, there is when we go deep....and a reminder that 'deep' is right here. We don't have to go somewhere for it, all that is needed is to be present to now.here.this.

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