Gaza had a plastic surgeon and he was Greek

Gaza had a plastic surgeon and he was Greek

The Gaza Strip may have been at the top of the world’s news headlines for the last month or more after the Hamas terrorist attack on October 7 and the war that broke out with Israel, but the reality is that the region has always been plagued by military operations, bombings and attacks, even when they were not of global proportions.

Just a few days ago, the plastic surgeon, Alexander-Salah El-Zanin, was rescued from Gaza, where he had been since 2011, practising his science, plastic surgery.

“Some of my patients want to repair the scars left by bombs and bullets. But others, they are young men and women who are asking for everything. From nose jobs to breast augmentation,” he would have said in March 2015, in an interview with Reuters on the increased demand for plastic surgery services in Gaza.

“Women are all the same everywhere. They may speak different languages, but they all have the same desires and needs about beauty and life,” explaining that in a conservative society like Gaza, where Hamas has been in power since 2007, it is difficult to quantify the spread of plastic surgery, but between then and the Reuters interview, his clientele has increased from 2-3 patients a day to 15.

Coming to the present day, a few days ago Zanin is back in Greece and Salamina, after being rescued with the help of the Greek authorities from war-torn Gaza, together with his wife and children.

“Gaza is currently the largest prison in the world. In seconds your life is at stake,” he said, speaking to Kathimerini. He and his family, for days it was impossible for them to sleep even for 3 hours straight in fear of the bombing.

Alexandros – Salah El Zanin came to Greece in 1981, at the age of 18, to study. He learned Greek in Thessaloniki, studied medicine in Athens and did his residency at “Agios Sabbas” and “Asclepieion” in Voula. He received Greek citizenship, completed his military service in Alexandroupolis and named his first-born son Philip. He opened his own practice in Kaminia and worked with several private clinics in Attica and after 30 consecutive years of living and working in Greece, he returned in 2011 to Gaza with his family, where he performed cosmetic, liposuction and plastic surgery, as well as reconstructive surgery on wounds caused by the successive wars.

“People think Palestinians are born to die or become terrorists. No, they are like everyone else. We are not looking or wanting to die. We love life. When a woman comes to have her face done, it doesn’t mean she has money to spare, she can save it for two years. A woman wants her beauty, for her husband, for her child, for herself,” he tells Kathimerini.

When he found himself in Rafah, which was overrun with displaced Palestinians, he wanted to help with his experience in the organization. As he describes it, he set up a makeshift clinic and managed to see hundreds of people a day. “When I spoke to the consulate, I said I was here and I was helping in the name of Greece,” he says. “Every person is afraid, but you can’t be trapped in your fear. What can you do? Hide in a corner?”

“There must be a political solution to the Palestinian issue,” says El Zanin, who has no intention of staying in Greece for long. He wants to return as soon as things calm down. “Most of the city has been destroyed. But I want to return to help as much as I can. There are thousands of injured people who need treatment and monitoring.”