Ameen Mansour, a Palestinian dentist from the northern West Bank village of Azzun, has made a practice of welcoming Israeli patients to his clinic.
But since a young Palestinian knifed one of his Israeli patients outside his office in early September, Mansour has barely received any of them. On a recent Sunday, none were at his office, which was largely quiet and empty.
“The vast majority of them are telling me they cannot come,” the 47-year-old, who was trained in Moscow, remarked, sipping black coffee in the lobby of his clinic. “They usually account for approximately 20 percent of all my patients. About 17-18 of them generally come every month, but in the last one only two did.”
According to Mansour, many of his Israeli patients have canceled their appointments, while others have informed him they no longer can come to his office.
“They are telling me they are frightened to travel here because of what happened,” he exclaimed. “Some are saying that it is impossible to come.”
On September 7, a Palestinian teenager stabbed 60-year-old Yosef Peretz and his 17-year-old son Libar — after asking them if they were Jews — at the entrance to Mansour’s office.
“I heard them shouting downstairs and I bolted to them. I jumped on the stabber, held down his arm and knocked the knife out of his hand,” Mansour recalled. “I then moved him outside my office and he ran away.”
Moments later, Mansour said, he bandaged Yosef and Libar to prevent them from losing blood. He said he and another Azzun resident then began to rush them toward a hospital in Qalqilya, but pulled over next to a group of IDF soldiers they came across on their way there. He said he informed the soldiers of what happened and they subsequently arranged for an ambulance to take the father and son to the Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba.
In the meantime, members of the attacker’s family turned him in to Palestinian Authority security forces, which have since kept him in custody.
Yosef Peretz, a resident of the southern town of Ofakim, confirmed Mansour’s account. Both he and Libar survived the attack, though he said his son has continued to experience pain in recent weeks.
Peretz said he had sought treatment from Mansour primarily because of the low prices the Palestinian dentist offers compared to those in Israel.
“I heard about Ameen from a neighbor. I decided to go to him because he could do the implants very inexpensively,” said Yosef, who was in the process of receiving 24 dental implants from the Palestinian dentist. “The implants I received from him would have cost me three times the price here [in Israel].”
While Israel’s national healthcare system covers most dental costs for children, it does not do so for a large number of procedures for adults.
According to Mansour, he offers dental implants for NIS 1,500-2,000 per tooth, whereas in Israel the procedure costs NIS 3,000-4,000. He said other procedures he provides such as root canals and extractions are also dramatically less expensive in his clinic compared to Israel.
Lior Katzap, the head of the Israel Dental Association, said dental implants in Israel range run NIS 2,000-10,000 per tooth.
But he argued that Israelis should go to dentists in Israel: “It is important that Israelis go to dentists in Israel because that way they can be sure that they will receive care that is in line with international standards.”
While Peretz said he was pleased with the implants Mansour did for him, he also said he wouldn’t be returning to Azzun to complete his treatment.
“The security people told me not to go back there until all the legal proceedings regarding the stabbing are concluded,” he said. “I am very satisfied with the work Ameen has done for me, but unfortunately I cannot go back anytime soon.”
Mansour, who is a Fatah leader in the Qalqilya region, a former Azzun deputy mayor and a past top official in the local Dentists Union, is married and has four children. He said he was shot in the course of a demonstration in 2001 and then served just over three years in an Israeli prison after a military court convicted him in 2003 of incitement. He denies the charge.
The IDF did not immediately respond to a request to confirm Mansour’s record.
He said he started to treat Israelis in the late 1990s following the signing of the Oslo Accords, a series of agreements between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization that established the Palestinian Authority.
“People from nearby settlements, especially Russians in Neve Menahem and others from Rosh Ha’ayin, would do their shopping and go to dentists in our town,” he said. “I offered them the same price and service as I would someone from here, but after the start of the Second Intifada, they stopped coming.”
The Second Intifada, which broke out in 2000, saw Palestinian terror groups carry out suicide bombings, shootings and other attacks against Israelis.
Mansour said Israelis started coming to his office again in 2009 after he fortuitously met an Ofakim resident in Azzun whom he later treated.
“After Yoni came, he told others in Ofakim about my office, who then told more people,” he said, referring to the resident. “I eventually started to take care of a large number of patients from Israel, but that all ended after what happened a few weeks ago.”
A number of Mansour’s patients who he said recently canceled appointments with him following the stabbing declined to comment.
Yoni, who asked that his family name be withheld, confirmed that many of those he connected to Mansour no longer feel safe traveling to Azzun.
“They like the price and the job he does for them but they are scared to go after the stabbing,” he said.
Katzap said no data was available on the number of Israelis who go to the West Bank for dental care because those transactions are not recorded in Israel.
Mansour said the phenomenon exists in a number of other Palestinian towns besides Azzun, but he did not know how widespread it is.
Signs for dentists’ offices with Hebrew writing can be found in many villages and towns in the West Bank. A report by the Kan public broadcaster in September featured a dental office in the southern West Bank town of Dahariya, where, it said, Israelis also go for treatment.
Mansour said he wishes that his patients will eventually come back.
“What happened was terrible, but I am honestly content because no one was killed, which is the most important thing.” he said. “Hopefully I will be able to treat them again.”