The Doctor Who Sat And Waited

Yitzchak Stern was born in Jerusalem during Israel's War of Independence, in 1948. While Stern was educated in Jerusalem, places in the local medical school were rare and difficult to obtain. Many Jerusalemites in the same position attended medical school in Italy, but Yitzchak had made a decision that he would study in English, thinking that having these two languages, Hebrew and English, would put him in good stead for his future as a doctor. His wife Linda points out that this, "turned out to be one of his best decisions, ever."

Israeli Emissary

Yitzchak was accepted to medical school in Dublin, Ireland. During the long years of his training, Yitzchak was active in the Bnei Akiva youth organization where he served as an Israeli emissary and through which he met his wife Linda, who was a youth leader for this organization in the Stamford Hill section of London. As a result of Yitzchak's work with the organization, many youngsters returned to their Jewish roots and heritage and not a few made Aliyah to Israel. To this day, many of these children, now grown adults, have remained close to the Sterns.

At the end of Dr. Stern's time in Dublin, the now married couple thought long and hard about where Yitzchak might do his internship. Yitzchak liked Safed for its quaint, Old City-style atmosphere, which reminded him of Jerusalem, the city of his birth. Linda had already made aliyah in 1973 and the couple hoped that by choosing to work in an intimate hospital in Safed, Yitzchak would have more free time to spend with Linda than he would have had working for a big hospital like Jerusalem's Hadassah Mount Scopus Hospital where Yitzchak might have been on call around the clock.

Inexpensive Housing

So, in 1979, the Sterns were lucky enough to find inexpensive housing just up the street from Safed's Rebecca Sieff hospital. Yitzchak was thrilled to discover that the hospital had accepted him as an intern for the entire year. It was more common for interns serving at smaller hospitals to spend some of their internship working for larger hospitals, such as Rambam in Haifa. Linda moved with Yitzchak to the town of Safed where the couple lived in a large apartment block in the Ofer neighborhood in a section reserved for new immigrants. The couple had children and made many friends with people who had children the same ages as their own.

After internship, Yitzchak gained experience for about 15 years in the Tzfat hospital's Internal Ward (Pnimit), did a year of Tzva Keva in Lebanon in 1987 where he was instrumental in establishing the hospital in Bint Jbeil, and only then started working as a family doctor for two Israeli health funds, Maccabi and Meuchedet. This was a new concept at that time, since most patients saw doctors at branches of the funds' clinics. The Stern's had moved into larger quarters and turned part of their home into a clinic. Dr. Stern also opened a branch clinic for Maccabi in the nearby town of Hatzor, where no such facilities existed.

At first, Stern sat and waited for patients. But there were many English speaking immigrants to this area and word spread that here was a physician who spoke their native language. Linda says that Yitzchak didn't wait long for his practice to take off and soon he was, "drowning in patients."

Unrealized Potential

The couple has been happy in Safed these past 29 years and the Sterns are active members of the community. Yitzchak stood for mayor in the last mayoral election, and his campaign was based on a need to exploit what Linda describes as the vast unrealized potential of Safed. Dr. Stern refused to make any empty promises and was determined to run a clean campaign. Linda feels pleased at the impact her husband has made on the local political scene and the couple continue to contribute in every way possible to the town they love, Safed.