Written by Fray Hochstein, on behalf of Team ROI
Service is something Iris knows a lot about. Born in the U.S. to Israeli parents posted to the embassy there, she spent her formative years in Gderot, a moshav in the center of the country. Iris initially had no plans to go into medicine but this changed when a soldier from her unit was injured in action and his life was saved by the efforts of the army field doctor. In deciding to become a doctor, Iris was following in the footsteps of her great grandfather, Haim Yizraeli. Haim made aliyah with his family in 1922 and soon settled in Be’er Tuvia, where he served as the doctor for all those who lived in the region, both Jewish and Arab. He was killed in the riots of 1929, defending the village and treating the wounded from both sides. It is this sense of the sanctity of life as a value that goes beyond politics that Iris took with her to Lesbos, Greece, where she went to volunteer with IsraAID in 2015, helping the thousands of refugees pouring in to the island by boat from Turkey. As part of the IsraAID team, Iris was there on the beach to help them to shore and provide initial medical assistance and first aid.
Photo Credit: Netanel Tobias
This experience coincided not only with her graduation from medical school but also with her becoming a member of ROI Community. Iris attended the Summit at a period of crossroads in her life when she was struggling to decide what to do next. As Iris tells it: “The theme of that year’s Summit was shmita – and this idea of pausing to reflect and take stock, of taking a break, really spoke to me. I decided to take time off and focus on humanitarian work.”
Following the Summit Iris went with ROI to Morocco and Ukraine, something she said was incredibly impactful. “Going on these trips with ROI enabled me to connect to my Jewish story, my family story. The people I met on the trip helped me realize what is actually important to me, helped me understand that yes, I wanted to be a doctor, but the kind of doctor that was right for me.” Iris decided to focus on emergency medicine, with plans to do a further specialization in disaster management. She credits ROI with not only awakening in her a sense of the bigger picture of social activism, innovation, and entrepreneurship, and what can be accomplished, but also of providing the encouragement she needed, both emotionally and financially, at critical points along the way. Iris has since volunteered in clinics in Kenya and Togo, and is part of the leadership forum of Mirsham, an organization dedicated to improving the rights and conditions of medical residents and to creating a more humane medical system in Israel. “I have been incredibly impacted by the people I’ve met in ROI, who do such amazing things with their lives, and the real friendships and bonds that we’ve created as part of this Community.”
Photo credit of hero image: Lior Sperandeo