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.
is associate chief, division of pediatric palliative care, at the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago. He was formerly medical director of pediatric palliative care at the Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital at Columbia University Medical Center in New York. He received his BA from Yale University and his medical degree from the Sackler School of Medicine in Tel Aviv. He also trained at Mount Sinai Medical Center and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, and at Boston Children’s Hospital. His writing has appeared in Bellevue Literary Review, The Hill, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and Time. He lives in Chicago.