JERUSALEM After clinging weakly to life for four months, Israeli Yigal Cohen may soon leave hospital like a brand new person thanks to the Palestinian heart pumping in his chest.
Cohen, who would have died without a heart transplant, received the vital organ from a most unlikely donor: Palestinian Mazen Joulani, whose family says he was killed by Jewish settlers.
Israeli police, who are investigating Joulani's death on Sunday, say he was killed in a feud with other Palestinians.
Despite the disagreement and eight months of vicious Israeli-Palestinian fighting, his family agreed to donate his organs, saving five people's lives, including Cohen's.
Israeli media quoted Joulani's father Lotfi as saying he would be willing to donate the organs if it "saved lives, Jews or Muslims."
"This is a noble act that really, really touched us. We were very surprised yesterday to find out the identity of the donor," Cohen's father David told Israel Radio.
"It is really touching, especially in these days when relations are so tense, this noble family comes and teaches us that it is possible to do things in a different way," he said.
A Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip erupted in September after peace talks stalled.
"The very fact of the act simply taught me that there are other kinds of people on the other side and maybe there will be others like this, and through people like this we will find the path to peace and to a normal relationship," Cohen said.
Dr. Yaacov Lavie, the cardiologist at Tel Hashomer Hospital near Tel Aviv who carried out the transplant, said Yigal Cohen would have died without Joulani's heart.
Now the father of two can expect to go home to his wife and children within a couple of weeks, Lavie said.
"When you are deep in the transplant operation you don't think about it, but a moment later you think that during the operation you held in your right hand the heart of an Arab Palestinian Muslim. . . and in the other hand the heart of a Jew," Lavie said.
"You smile to yourself and see that deep inside we are exactly the same and all the conflicts are completely unnecessary," he told Israel Radio.Comment on this story
Lavie said he was disturbed by the thought that in the same Palestinian nation there were those who would donate organs and save the lives of Jews and others who sent their sons to commit suicide in a crowd of Israelis.
On the night of Cohen's transplant, Lavie said the family of one of the Israeli victims of Friday's Palestinian suicide bombing which killed 20 people and the bomber also decided to donate organs.
"We are in a political and emotional tornado and the things are blurred...but there is a ray of light and these are the things that give you the strength to continue," Lavie said.