RAMAT GAN, Israel (JTA) — On television Lisa Edelstein, a star of the hit Fox show “House,” and her fellow actors work medical miracles every episode. But at an Israeli hospital she stumbled trying her hand at simulated arthroscopic surgery.
“I’m so glad this is not a living person,” she said Wednesday, shifting the controls over a robotic dummy, eyes fixed on a computer screen that revealed her would-be patient’s internal organs. “I think I just mangled its liver.”
Edelstein and three other members of the “House” cast, along with David Shore, the show’s creator, are on a weeklong tour of Israel as part of a public relations effort to bring high-profile Americans on visits here.
Among their stops were two Tel Aviv-area hospitals — the first at the Israel Center for Medical Simulation at the Sheba Medical Center, the only simulation center of its scope internationally, where medical staff, students, and army medics and physicians from around the world undergo extensive training.
The cast members looked on as medical students re-enacted a particularly dramatic scene from the last season of the show in which a patient who was crushed under a falling building has his leg amputated and is rushed to the operating room.
Among the team of medical students was Yuval Lotan, an avowed fan of the Emmy Award-winning “House,” which stars Hugh Laurie (who was not available to come to Israel as he was touring elsewhere) as a curmudgeonly genius doctor who leads a team of young physicians in investigating mysterious infectious diseases and other ailments at a New Jersey hospital.
“The show is good entertainment, but at medical school we learn what not to do from it," Lotan said. "After all, this is Hollywood we are talking about.”
The visiting cast — which also included Omar Epps, who plays Dr. Eric Foreman; Jesse Spencer, who plays Dr Robert Chase; and Amber Tamblyn, who will play Dr. Martha Masters in the upcoming seventh season — also visited the Wolfson Medical Center in Holon.
At Wolfson they visited the pediatric cardiology intensive care unit and met with children from the West Bank, Iraq, Africa and Romania, among other places. All of the children were brought to the hospital by an Israel-based humanitarian project called Save a Child’s Heart to receive life-saving treatment.
Save a Child’s Heart, also known as SACH, brings children with heart disease from the developing world for cardiac care in Israel while also working to improve cardiac care centers in their native countries, on average saving some 200 children’s lives a year.
"The work that Save a Child’s Heart is doing is an important reality check," said Shore, who is Jewish and has two brothers living in Israel. "It’s good for the Jews, it’s good for Israel, but really it’s good for humanity.”
At the hospital, Edelstein played with two young girls from Zanzibar who had undergone surgery recently and spent time trying to connect with a girl from Iraq. Nearby, Tambly gave her sunglasses to a young Palestinian boy from the West Bank.
The trip was organized as part of a combined effort of America’s Voices in Israel, an arm of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, and Israel’s foreign and tourism ministries.
Irwin Katsof, director of America’s Voices in Israel, said the project’s purpose in bringing celebrities on such trips was to make them goodwill ambassadors when they go home.
“We want them to talk to their friends, perhaps do an interview to let people know Israel is more than just wars,” Katsof said. “These people have an impact. The amount of free publicity we get from them going back and speaking on a news show is phenomenal.”
The visit has coincided with Israel’s somber marking of Memorial Day, and the cast members described watching as Israelis came to a halt at the sound of a siren to stand in silence for those killed in the country’s wars.
“It was very emotional,” said Edelstein, who is Jewish and has relatives in Israel, including descendants of a great aunt who was a founder of Kibbutz Dafna on the border with Lebanon.
Memorial Day was followed by the abrupt shift into celebrations for Independence Day.
“You guys know how to party,” said Tamblyn, laughing in an exchange with reporters.
The group had stayed out late the night before exploring Tel Aviv’s vast club scene.
Also on the touring list were the Galilee (stopping off in a spa), Jerusalem and the ancient desert fortress of Masada.
And more actors who play doctors on TV are on their way. Katsof said the next delegation he is bringing is due here next month: members of the “Grey’s Anatomy” cast.