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A 58-year-old Arab Christian woman got a new lease on life this week when she received a kidney transplant from 56-year-old Yigal Yehoshua, who died on Monday six days after being hit in the head with a brick during the Lod riots.
The transplant was conducted at Hadassah-University Hospital in Ein Kerem, where Randa Aweis of Jerusalem’s Talpiot neighborhood had been undergoing treatment for kidney disease for nine years. The hospital said the transplant, which was overseen by Hadassah’s Dr. Ashram Imam and Dr. Abed Halaila, was urgent.
On Wednesday, Aweis spoke to Yehoshua’s wife and thanked her for the “noble deed.”
“We are like family now,” Aweis, a mother of six, said.
Yehoshua was attacked while on his way home from a nearby religious event. The rioters torched several synagogues and vandalized several vehicles.
“We will settle accounts with whoever participated in this murder,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on the day of Yehoshua’s death. “Nobody will escape punishment.”
Instead of responding to Yehoshua’s murder with anger, his family chose to give love and life. His organs were donated to people across the country: his lungs to a 69-year-old man, his liver to a 22-year-old woman, one kidney to Aweis and the second to 67-year-old Itzik Hodera.
Aweis’ 29-year-old daughter, Fairouz, said that she had heard about the lynching but had no idea that Yehoshua would be her mother’s savior until the transplant occurred.
“My heart goes out to Yigal’s family,” she said. “We would like to get to know them personally and thank them for having his kidney inside my mother’s body.”
She added that she just celebrated her 29th birthday: “This is my gift, [my mother] gets another chance at life.”
Halaila said that the transplant was a strong example of how medicine is a field that does not distinguish by race or religion, though he admitted that “at the end of the day, doctors are only human, and we cannot completely disconnect our feelings from the situation.” He added that it was hard to conduct a transplant knowing that the organ came from someone who was murdered in such a heinous way.
“I just pray for peace and quiet and health for all of us,” the doctor said.
The second kidney recipient received Yehoshua’s organ in a transplant performed at Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva.
Hodera, a retired career soldier, had been struggling with kidney disease for the past 10 years. In 2019, he qualified to receive a kidney. Since then, he has been waiting for a donor.
“Three days a week he would be connected to the dialysis machine for four hours at a time,” Hodera’s wife, Elana Hodera, told The Jerusalem Post. “He had low blood pressure, and we always had to be carefully monitoring him, living in fear of whether he would make it to the next day. It was not a life. Now that he has a transplant, I hope everything will be different.”
“The family did such an honorable thing, such a strong act,” said Elana Hodera, “to give life to so many people when he died in such a tragic way. He died, but they honored his death by giving his organs to those in need.”
About 250 transplants are carried out in Israel on adults and children every year, according to the National Transplant Center.
Around 300 new people join the donor waiting list each year, amounting to more than 1,000 children and adults waiting for a transplant. Some 700 of them are waiting for a kidney transplant, the transplant center said. Each year, about 100 people die waiting.
The Hoderas live in Eilat. Elana Hodera said that she received a phone call on Monday a little before 8 p.m. telling her to rush to Beilinson for the transplant. They arrived at the hospital, 350 km. away, less than four hours later.
“With the security situation and the rockets, we drove at night, in the dark,” she recalled. “We were so nervous, but it all went smoothly.”
They were quickly ushered into a ward for testing, and by 10 a.m. Itzik Hodera went into the operating theater for the transplant, which took 12 hours. His wife said he woke up quickly after the operation.
According to the transplant center, the survival rate for kidney transplant recipients a year later is over 90%.
“We were so afraid,” Elana Hodera said, “but everything went really well.”