Christopher Reeve: "Caregivers and scientists are all working with a sense of urgency"
Israel’s philosophy of curiosity, thirst for knowledge enables scientific advancement
The actor and activist Christopher Reeve spent Thursday touring the Technion University in Haifa, Israel and learning about the progress they have made in the area of spinal cord injury, repair and rehabilitation. While there, he learned about technology that can purify feeder stem cell lines for use in clinical trials on humans. Also, he saw robotic technology that will make spinal surgery more precise and safer.
Christopher Reeve enjoys a special performance of the "Hora on Wheels" dance troupe of Beit Halochem Rehabilitation Center. (July 31)
Following his visit to the north, Mr. Reeve went to the Beit Halochem rehabilitation center, which is described by some of its patients as a community center. It is a unique place in which people with serious injury and trauma are treated by basic physical therapy and exercise on the most advanced equipment, to learning how to swim, play basketball and even dance in their wheelchairs. Mr. Reeve saw a troupe of dancers called the Hora Galgalim (Hora on Wheels) troupe, as they performed in honor of Mr. Reeve. He also watched a game of basketball played by a team in wheelchairs, and met with some of the patients.
At the end of his visit to Beit Halochem, Reeve held a closing press conference in which he spoke of his experiences, some of the things he learned and his thoughts and feelings on Israel. Reeve was introduced by Meital Wax, a young lady in a wheelchair who was injured in a terrorist attack that also killed her brother. She welcomed Reeve by telling him of her story: "At first I thought my life was over, but then I started to come here. The people taught me not to be a victim, but a survivor."
She also told Reeve, "Your visit is very important to us and has touched our hearts in these difficult days. Your work, your energy, your spirit, your mind, and your warm heart is an inspiration to us all.It is a great honor to introduce a man who helps us believe that truly, nothing is impossible."
Reeve then shared his thoughts on Israel, its people, its technology, and its future. "My trip to Israel has taken me many places. In four days I have seen how much the entire country cares about the health and welfare of all of the people." Reeve praised Israel’s caregivers, doctors and scientists by saying, "Caregivers and scientists are all working with a sense of urgency," and "it shows how much Israel cares about its citizens, all of its citizens."
When asked about a lesson he has learned from being in Israel, Reeve commented, "What would be terrible is to suffer as an innocent bystander and have no one care. That’s not the case here."
Reeve said that in order to fund proper research, you cannot expect any single person to give it all. He said that partnerships were the key to finding the solutions and cures. He particularly discussed the work of Technion and The Weizmann Institute of Science and said of his friend, "If [Dr.] Michal Schwartz says she’s going to do something, she does it." Reeve believes that advanced treatments and even a cure to spinal and neurological damage is not too far away and will come as a result of unfettered research in places like Israel.
When he spoke about his ability to travel, Reeve said, "if you read stories that they had to remove 40 seats on the plane for me, it’s not true. I don’t like to feel that I am disrupting people; I want to be in the middle of people; I don’t want to be separated." He said that he used just one seat, and the cabin was filled with other passengers as well.
Mr. Reeve went on to add: "In the US we are such a big country, sometimes we only think of ourselves and we don’t know enough about what goes on in smaller countries. Now I have a very different image of Israel; this is a place of fun, laughter, food, and spirit of life," Reeve said.
He added, "The Israeli people are full of life and nothing can take that away… Your zest for life is something we can all learn from. I’ll go back and tell everyone I came to visit Israel and there is no reason not to come to Israel."
When he was asked if he believed there will be peace, he responded, "I hope there will be peace; I believe there will be peace." When asked by a young journalist if Israel needed a superhero to come to its rescue, Reeve responded, "I always stressed the fact that Superman is a friend, a symbol of hope, a symbol of possibility. We all have powers within ourselves; courage, endurance of faith, and love we can call on to get through difficult events. He told the man, "The ordinary hero is within all of us."