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Tuesday, 14 August 2018


Healthy relations between Israel and Abkhazia

27.04.2011  |  21:29

Healthy relations between Israel and Abkhazia. 16383.gifAfter the visit of an Israeli delegation to Abkhazia the republic fell into "Jewish exultance". The question was to restore direct air communication between two countries. Abkhaz PM Sergey Shamba on behalf of the country's leader pompously congratulated Abkhazia's Jewish community on Passover holiday. It seems Sukhum has discovered Israel only now. Yet, Azamat Hibba, an Abkhaz expert in health care told GeorgiaTimes that Abkhaz-Israeli contacts are successfully growing at least in medicine.


This summer common people will hardly have a chance to land in the airport of Sukhum. Resumption of flights scheduled for June is postponed till next year because of the certification process. That is why a possibility of direct air communication with Israel is no more than a sensation.

Nonetheless, Abkhazia already has contacts with Israel. A group of Israeli experts is tasked to work out a development strategy for Abkhazia's health care system in three months' time. This project is not a result of the Israelites' "loud" visit, it is part of cooperation that has been on for over one year. According to PM Sergey Shamba, in this case the target is to create a modern health care system that has become a must.

To understand how vital this reform is to Abkhazia, 5 minutes' stay in any local hospital would be enough. We dropped in a military hospital in the village of Agudzera near Sukhum. This is a good hospital by Abkhazia's standards. It has best doctors, a tomographer (one for the entire republic) and wonderful landscape outside that helps patients get well faster. Yet, the outside plasterwork is peeling, upper floors have no windows, and medicine is "free of charge" only in documents. Anything must be paid for - directly to doctors.

Another example is Sukhum's maternity clinic. Everything is new here. The equipment is modern, and the place is ideally clean. Yet, while a birthing mother lies in her ward, her relatives must raise RUR 15,000-20,000 to pay doctors for their "free" services.

On April 22, before the specialists from Israel came, a parliamentary round table on the health care reform was held in the republic. Even the president's spokesman in parliament remarked that with years nothing changes in this sphere. As early as in 1996 a legal base was set up to regulate activities of private medicine, but the Ministry of Health has not come up with the law on private sector yet. Accordingly, numerous dentists and other doctors work illegally. 

Answering the question of GeorgiaTimes about the advice that Israeli specialists can give to Abkhazia, health care minister Zurab Marshania redirected the issue to PM Shamba. The government controls the direct dialogue with the Israelites, Azamat Hibba, an Abkhaz expert for medicine, told our correspondent. "As far as I understand, preparation of the strategy by representatives of Israel is part of the idea. The core is that the strategy will be financed through Israel's investments. Considering that this level is higher than the competence of the Ministry of Health, it is the government that runs the project led by the prime minister himself", - Hibba asserts. According to him the problem is not the lack of intellectual resources, or brains, to put it plainly. It is deficit in big money in Abkhazia. As expected, this part of the problem will be solved with the help of Israel's investments.

The only synagogue in Abkhazia is located in one remote district of Sukhum at the intersection of two dusty roads. The innumerous Jewish community of Abkhazia gathers here. As one of its active members told GeorgiaTimes, the community has nearly 120 members most of whom are elderly people. All these 18 years after the war these people had a quiet, modest life hoping to go to the land of their ancestors one day.

In the past there were much more Jews in Abkhazia. They sold deficit goods, ran clock repair shops and offered fake jewelry. But when in 1992 the war struck, the Georgian militants were as merciless on Sukhum's Jews as on Abkhazians. The Jews were considered rich people in town that had enough to be grabbed from. Then Israel's authorities sent a ship to the bay and took aboard those who wanted to leave for their motherland.

From that time onwards Abkhazia's Jews were remembered once a year - at the culture festival of Abkhazia's nations. They were allowed one performance - a famous 7:40. Jews were not suppressed in Abkhazia - except for the neighbors of the synagogue. It stands in a private territory, and an attempt to widen it aroused a stormy reaction. An angry landowner threatened: "If you don't get the fence back I will make a new Palestine here".  

Finally, the Jews of Sukhum have their hour of glory seeing governmental cars parked near the synagogue and the Prime minister warmly congratulating them on Passover. Besides, the community's chancellery has work to do receiving letters from different countries that were surprised to learn that there are Jews in Abkhazia.

Abkhazia's tax payers spent huge money on trips of local diplomats to far-away Latin America. Now they find out that cooperation and probably recognition comes literally from round the corner - from Jerusalem. Maybe, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Abkhazia must think better and go to Syria and Lebanon, for instance?

Anton Krivenuk

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