They are supposed to be sworn enemies, so it's easy to see why the Syrian mother would hesitate to bring her child to an Israeli hospital for serious surgery. But thanks to a program that builds bridges between Muslims and Jews, there's at least one small crack in the centuries-old wall of hostility.
Niyaz was discovered by doctors in a Syrian refugee camp with a grim prognosis. Fearing repercussions for her mother, CBN News, having televised the story, hid her identity.
"First, I was afraid of the thought of coming here. But after some thought and discussion with my husband, we decided it was worth it for the surgery," said her mother. The 2-year old had a hole between the two major arteries in her heart. Not having access to surgery a year earlier, meant that at this point, death was imminent without it.
Getting to the Wolfson Center in Tel Aviv, entailed other risks as they had to leave the war zone they were in, to travel through another war zone in northern Iraq, before finally arriving in Israel. It took a team of surgeons, nurses and technicians several days to confirm a new and positive prognosis for Niyaz.
This was all made possible by the Christian outreach group, Shevet Achim, an organization that "finds and helps at-risk kids throughout the Middle East." They partner with Save a Child's Heart and hospitals such as the Wolfson Center. Founded twenty years ago by Dr. Lior Sasson, they provide life-saving surgery for children from places that consider Israel the enemy.
Interviewed on CBN News, Sasson explains, "Maybe people will call me naïve, but dealing with the Palestinians and people, patients coming from enemy countries -- they know what we did for their child, and it put everything in new perspective," Sasson said. "It seems we are not the monster everybody wants to draw us. I think it's like trust-building steps."
In addition to this great act of kindness, all through the ordeal, the care given to Niyaz's mother had a big impact on her. According to what Joshua Miles of Shevet Achim told CBN News, it's a typical outcome for those on the receiving end.
"We experience fear, hesitation, distrust, even of the Israeli doctors - sometimes of us," Miles revealed. "What is really a blessing is seeing that distrust turn to love, seeing the fear turn to confidence, and seeing these kids' lives saved and also seeing their parents and their families, their viewpoints radically [changed]for the good," he said.
Not only does Niyaz have a new prognosis of a long and normal life, but the transformation in her mother's perspective is a glimpse of what peace in the war-torn region might look like.
"I'm very happy; I'm very glad," said Niyaz's mother. "I thank all the Jewish doctors that treated my daughter and I got a good treatment from all the staff here, and also Shevet Achim who brought us here to the hospital."
The sad part of this story is that the broader outcome for Niyaz and her mother is unknown upon their return to wartorn Syria.