Ibrahim Mahir is a Muslim nurse who heads the corona ward at the Emek Medical Center near Afula, Israel.

Rabbi Shlomo Galster, an elderly patient under his care, endeared himself to Mahir and the other members of the staff with his kindly demeanor. Again and again, Gelaster would thank the doctors, nurses, and aides for their support and care. And he would shower blessings on them all.

The rabbi's condition deteriorated and the family was summoned from their hometown to bid him a final farewell. Mahir and the others hoped that the family would be there with him during his last moments, but they were caught in heavy traffic which held them back.

When it became apparent that the family was not likely to make it in time, Mahir undertook to fill the gap as best he could. Taking the Hebrew prayer book that was always next to the rabbi’s bed, he recited a final Shema Yisrael in the rabbi's ear during his final moments.

By the time Rabbi Shlomo’s family managed to reach Afula, it was too late. Mahir sensed their despair. He told the rabbi’s daughter, Meirav, what he had done.

“I don’t know whether it’s alright because I’m Muslim, but I took his prayer book and said Shema with him before he died.”

Meirav thanked him from depths of an anguished heart.

Even Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called Ibrahim Mahir to salute his act of kindness.

After the shiva, the daughter contacted Mahir to tell him how it had comforted her to know that the last words her father heard in this world were those of the Jewish declaration of faith, Shema Yisroel.

How did Mahir know about Jewish prayers and rituals?

During an interview on Israeli radio, Mahir explained: “I took two courses on Judaism when studying for my M.A. in Ben Gurion University. I don’t know the whole prayer, but I know there’s a prayer that Jews say towards the end of life – Shema Yisrael. So I stood by the head of his bed and said Shema Yisrael.”

When Meirav phoned to thank him again, she assured Mahir that he had done the right thing.

“She told me how it had comforted her during the traditional week of mourning following the death of a close relative, it warmed my heart.

“Sometimes we on the staff are the last voices a patient hears, especially during the pandemic, with its closed wards. We need to be there for our patients, not only as caretakers, but even more so, as decent, compassionate human beings. That’s what is needed and that’s what we’ll continue doing.”

When interviewed by Israel’s Reshet Beit, Meirav said, “My father was an Orthodox Jew, a hassid of Chabad. He couldn’t stop talking about the devoted care all the staff members provided, to everyone. He always used to say: ‘Peace starts here.’”

The staff knew they were appreciated, and they responded in kind.