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A Hanukkah Miracle

“Whosoever preserves a single soul, Scripture ascribes merit to him as though he had preserved a complete world.”
—Mishna, Tractate Sanhedrin

This past June at a meeting of the Christian Allies Caucus, Judith Nusbaum - co-chair of the National Unity Coalition for Israel - told how a Christian man, Martin Filla from England, donated a kidney for her. We got in touch with Martin to get the story from him as well. Although we know Martin would have donated his kidney for anyone, their story is a beautiful example of how God brings Christians and Jews together to bless one another.

From Judith

Six years ago, I was diagnosed with chronic renal failure and was told that eventually I would have to be on dialysis. Two years ago, I began to feel weak, became severely anemic, and developed an elevated creatinine level. In February of 2005, I began dialysis. I found it emotionally and physically painful. My life was becoming very limited, since my activities had to revolve around the three days a week I was attached to the machine.

After completing the tests required by Israeli Medical Association to qualify for the Israel National Kidney Transplantation List, I was advised that the wait for a compatible cadaver kidney could be several years. I did not have time to wait and decided to search the Web for a donor.

Twelve people responded to my online plea, including Martin Filla. Nine of them decided that they were not interested, when they found out what was required. Two older Americans responded positively, and the third was Martin, a member of an international Christian organization in Australia, America and Great Britain that, among other projects, is devoted to ‘bringing light and happiness into the world by donating kidneys to patients requiring transplants, and to improving the world and making it a better place by saving lives,’ ‘tikun olam,’ as we say in Hebrew. Because of Martin’s selfless, compassionate act, I am able to be here with you today. Martin saved my life.

In Leviticus 19:16, we read, ‘Do not stand idly by as the blood of your neighbor is being shed.’ The biblical commentator Rashi explains this to mean: Do not watch him die when you can save him. On December 12, 2005, the transplant was performed in Beilinson Hospital. Martin was my Hanukkah [Feast of Dedication] miracle.

From Martin

After Martin contacted Judith, they were in touch by e-mail quite a bit. Judith took most of the initiative to organize the operation and made all the arrangements for Martin and a friend. Martin and Judith had three weeks to visit with each other before the surgery, at the hospital and at dinners with Judith’s family.

“Judith organized for us to be picked up at the airport with VIP treatment and made sure that the medical insurance people would cover the cost of our stay. She arranged several tour guides to take us on trips to Jerusalem, Masada, Caesarea, and the Sea of Galilee.

“I did some tests at the hospital so that the doctors could be sure that my kidney was healthy and that I would be healthy after the operation. Judith and I were briefed about the procedure and what to expect. All the hospital staff was very friendly. We were also assessed by a social worker, a psychologist, and a panel of professional experts, so that everyone was satisfied that we knew the risks of the operation, but we were still voluntarily prepared to undergo the operation.”

Three days after the surgery, Martin was released, and after a week in his hotel, he flew home. Judith and Martin continue to correspond. Judith e-mails him after every check-up “to let him know how ‘our’ kidney is doing.” Martin says, “I feel like I am part of the family.”

Martin concludes, “I believe we are called to love our neighbors, which means we should love strangers, and even people who are not our religion or our nationality. I need to accept how much God loves me and respond sincerely by passing on that love to other people.”

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