Hadassah

From Cancer Patient to Medical Clown: a Young Gazan Is Treated and Trained in Israel

Thursday, Apr 13 2017

Clowning in Gaza Hospital
After receiving treatment for a rare cancer in Israel and being uplifted during his painful hospital stay by medical clowns, 23-year-old Abdullah Abu Shaaban from Gaza decided he wanted to join the profession of medical clowning.

“I was sitting in my hospital bed the first time I met a medical clown,” Mr. Abu Shaaban recalls. “I didn’t know that there were such people as clowns and thought that a crazy person had come into my room. I wondered how people were allowed to do such things in a hospital.” It quickly became clear to him, however, that the clown was there to cheer him up. “The clown pulled me out of my depression and brought joy into my life,” he said. “I knew at that moment that I wanted to be a clown.”

Mr. Abu Shaaban, lacking the financial resources to study clowning formally, resorted to developing his skills through YouTube videos and websites. Then, with the help of social media, he connected with American-Israeli documentary filmmaker Sasha Kuperstina, who was creating a documentary about clowning in Israel. She reached out to David Barashi at Hadassah hospital to explore the possibility of Mr. Abu Shaaban training with him.

Mr. Barashi presented the idea to Prof. Eitan Kerem, head of the Pediatrics Division at Hadassah, who gave it his blessing. The plan: Mr. Abu Sheeban would come to Israel for four weeks to train under Mr. Barashi, and Ms. Kuperstina would film him for her documentary.

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