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Israeli Woman Donates Kidney to 3-Year-Old Palestinian Boy: 'This Is What Was Meant to Happen'

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Idit Harel Segal, who donated a kidney to a Palestinian child from the Gaza Strip, holds with the letter she wrote to the boy, handwritten in Hebrew before giving him an Arabic translation, in her home in Eshhar, northern Israel
Idit Harel Segal, who donated a kidney to a Palestinian child from the Gaza Strip, holds with the letter she wrote to the boy, handwritten in Hebrew before giving him an Arabic translation, in her home in Eshhar, northern Israel

Maya Alleruzzo/AP/Shutterstock Idit Harel Segal

In the face of conflict that's been brewing for years, an Israeli woman and a Palestinian family forged a life-long bond after she donated a kidney to their 3-year-old son.

Idit Harel Segal wanted to do "something big" to celebrate her 50th birthday, and decided to donate a kidney based on advice from her Holocaust survivor grandfather to live meaningfully, she told the Associated Press and The Times of Israel.

Segal, a mother of three, turned to Matnat Chaim, a group connecting donors and recipients, and was soon paired with her match: a 3-year-old Palestinian boy from the Gaza Strip who'd been on dialysis his whole life thanks to a congenital kidney defect, the outlets reported.

Despite years of violent turmoil between Israel and Palestine, Segal was not fazed by the revelation.

Idit Harel Segal, who donated a kidney to a Palestinian child from the Gaza Strip, holds with the letter she wrote to the boy, handwritten in Hebrew before giving him an Arabic translation, in her home in Eshhar, northern Israel
Idit Harel Segal, who donated a kidney to a Palestinian child from the Gaza Strip, holds with the letter she wrote to the boy, handwritten in Hebrew before giving him an Arabic translation, in her home in Eshhar, northern Israel

Maya Alleruzzo/AP/Shutterstock Idit Harel Segal's note

"From my perspective, my donation was personal and not political," she told The Times of Israel. "And the news of who was receiving the kidney did not make me regret it or reconsider it even for a minute. I felt that this is what was meant to happen, and not a day goes by that I'm not happy about saving the life of that sweet child."

Still, her family was not exactly on board, even before they found out who her recipient would be — a part of the story she kept quiet for several months.

"My family was really against it. Everyone was against it," Segal told the AP. "My husband, my sister, her husband. And the one who supported me the least was my father. They were afraid… I told myself if the reaction to the kidney donation is so harsh, [then] obviously the fact that a Palestinian boy is getting it will make it even harder."

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Israel has "maintained a tight blockade over Gaza since Hamas, an Islamic militant group that opposes Israel's existence, seized control of the area in 2007," according to the AP.

This past spring saw the worst escalation of violence between Israel and Palestinians since 2014. In May, Hamas fired hundreds of rockets into Israel in what it claimed was a response to this violence and ongoing tensions in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem.

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In retaliation, Israel, which is much more militarily advanced, carried out at least 130 strikes on Gaza. Sixty-five Palestinians have reportedly been killed, including 16 children. The country says it takes steps to minimize and avoid civilian deaths.

Though few Gazans are allowed entry into Israel due to the political strife, the country does allow a few medical patients in need of serious treatment in, according to the AP.

For Segal, the situation was a sensitive topic, as she and her family have lost three relatives to Palestinian attacks, including her father's parents, the outlet reported.

Even so, she said her family eventually came around to offer their support, and her father — to whom she had not been speaking since announcing she would donate the kidney — called her the night before her surgery.

Idit Harel Segal, who donated a kidney to a Palestinian child from the Gaza Strip, holds with the letter she wrote to the boy, handwritten in Hebrew before giving him an Arabic translation, in her home in Eshhar, northern Israel
Idit Harel Segal, who donated a kidney to a Palestinian child from the Gaza Strip, holds with the letter she wrote to the boy, handwritten in Hebrew before giving him an Arabic translation, in her home in Eshhar, northern Israel

Maya Alleruzzo/AP/Shutterstock Idit Harel Segal

Upon learning the recipient would be a Palestinian boy, he responded, "Well he needs life, also," Segal told the AP.

The transplant took place on June 16, and Segal was able to visit the boy the night before his surgery with a special letter she'd written for him, she told the outlet.

Upon visiting the hospital, the boy's family told her their home in Gaza had been destroyed in a recent Israeli airstrike, the Times of Israel reported. Still, the family was able to share special moments with Segal that transcended their nationalities, like singing the boy to sleep in the hospital together.

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The family, who did not want to be identified "due to the sensitivities over cooperating with Israelis," are still in touch with Segal, a kindergarten teacher, according to the AP.

For Segal, the successful donation and transplant accomplished her goal and then some — in order to boost the boy to the top of the donor list, his father donated a kidney of his own to a 25-year-old Israeli mother of two, Matnat Chaim chief executive Sharona Sherman told the AP.

"Deep inside I know I did something good," Segal told the outlet in a video. "And it's true it will not solve Israel-Palestinian relations, but it's another small thing."

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