Performances of Hope and Despair: A Case Study of Organ Donation Between a Palestinian and Israeli Jew Amidst War

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We explore the phenomenon of organ donation between rivals in time of war when a significant gift such as organ donation is given not just to a “stranger” but to a stranger who may be considered an enemy. This is a case study of a unique organ donation event that occurred in Israel during Operation Guardian of the Walls in May 2021. It involved a Palestinian boy killed by a Jewish policeman and a Jewish man killed by Palestinian youths. Both victims, lacking organ donor cards, had their organs donated by their families with the awareness that recipients could come from the “opposing” group. We ask: (1) How do families from rival groups construct meaning in their decision to donate organs? (2) How do they construct meaning in their experience of loss? The findings reveal that bereaved families imbue their actions with political and religious significance, framing the organ donations as a “universal gift” guided by religious commandments to save lives. While these acts initially transcend cultural and national boundaries, a lack of recognition and gratitude afterward can lead to disillusionment, reinforcing “us” versus “them” boundaries. This study underscores the intricate dynamics in organ donations during political conflict and the pivotal role of religious authorities in shaping perceptions and meaning. Moreover, it highlights the potential for organ donations to foster reconciliation and coexistence amidst conflict, provided mutual recognition in cases where compassion and understanding of loss are prioritized.

Original languageEnglish
JournalQualitative Health Research
Early online date17 May 2024
StateE-pub ahead of print - 17 May 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2024.


  • bereavement
  • cultural competence
  • grief
  • Israel
  • Operation Guardian of the Walls
  • organ donations
  • religion
  • spirituality


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