A former American participant of a Birthright trip this week met the Israeli woman suffering from cancer whose life he saved during his visit.
Peter Schottenfels visited Israel for the first time in 2007 on a Birthright educational tour. Along with many other participants, Schottenfels gave a marrow sample to the bone marrow registry.
Two years ago, the 30-year-old New Yorker was told by the US-based Gift of Life organization that his marrow was a match for 58-year-old leukemia patient Eti Brazilai from Ramat Gan, near Tel Aviv.
“When I first heard that my bone marrow was a match for a donor, I was surprised and felt very fortunate,” Schottenfels said. “The donation was very simple. I just sat and watched a movie. It was painless, like giving blood. I would do it again without hesitation.”
This week Schottenfels returned to Israel to meet Brazilai for the first time.
“When I first signed up to go on a Birthright trip I was looking forward to an experience that will connect me with Judaism, with our heritage — and to travel to Israel for the first time,” Schottenfels said.
Birthright is a nonprofit that sponsors free 10-day trips for young Jewish adults who have not previously visited the Jewish state, in a bid to strengthen their connection with the country.
“I never could have imagined [that]… I’d get to save a life, and also that my own life would change so dramatically,” Schottenfels said. “The entire experience strengthened my identity as a Jew. I feel fortunate to have gained a new family and an unbreakable bond with the people of Israel.”
Birthright’s collaboration with “Gift of Life” has so far matched up 180 donors with recipients.
“My life changed when I was diagnosed with acute leukemia, and I was reborn one year later when I received my bone marrow transplant,” Brazilai said. “I got a second chance at life and there are not many opportunities like this during our lifetime. I am grateful to Peter and the wonderful people of Gift of Life and Birthright who are doing a holy job.”