BY RON FINKEL AM
It was only a matter of a few weeks ago that I returned to Australia after attending Project Rozana’s inspiring, informative and moving International Directors Mission to Israel and Palestine. Catching up with our fellow directors is always a cause for celebration. But this time, our joy was tempered with the increasingly distressing news about the coronavirus pandemic.
It was still referred to as an epidemic when we arrived in Israel, but the signs that this was a growing problem were everywhere. So the question became, how will it impact on the people and the programs we support? And, how well are we positioned to deal with the growing threat?
Firstly, it was important to make sure that we had the funds in place to support our existing programs. And secondly, we had to work within the capacity of the people who have been tasked with delivering our existing programs. The reality is that some of the programs we were hoping to rollout in 2020 have been put on hold.
To that extent, the timing of our mission was perfect. Not only were we able to speak to our partners in person, but to see what they were doing to mitigate the challenges ahead. And importantly, we were able to work with them on how best to support their activities going forward into uncharted territory.
Our role now is to assess what additional funds may be required for the essential services to continue going forward that we are already committed to. Each service, in each of the key areas that underpin the work and philosophy of Project Rozana – namely, Transportation, Treatment and Training – have proven to add to people’s quality of life and in many instances, to save lives. So decisions we take are critical.
As you will read in this news bulletin, our existing programs are highly-targeted to meet the needs of their respective demographics. Their ongoing success is demonstrable and proudly so.
Since our founding in 2013, Project Rozana has been committed to supporting initiatives in health, which is the one area of civil society where Israelis and Palestinians meet on a daily basis and with mutual respect. We know with certainty that we can bridge the divide by building a better understanding between communities through the health-related programs we support.
The examples are everywhere, and at this most difficult of times, they stand out in stark relief. Let me reference an article that appeared recently in The Christian Science Monitor. It read in part…
“Palestinian health care professionals have received training in Israeli hospitals, Israeli labs have analyzed Palestinian COVID-19 diagnostic tests, and doctors on both sides are sharing data.
‘In the end, this isn’t something related to politics. This is something human, for the benefit of everyone,’ says Mariana Alarja, chief manager of the Angel Hotel in Beit Jala, next to Bethlehem, where dozens of Palestinian coronavirus patients are staying in quarantine.”
Let me also pay tribute and a debt of gratitude to the volunteer drivers who work with three services that fall under the umbrella of our transportation initiative, ‘Wheels of Hope’.
On the Israeli side, Road to Recovery and Humans without Borders are operating under enormous pressure, as the situation in the community deteriorates. Some drivers have fallen ill, some are required to self-isolate, while others have chosen not to drive out of concern for their own health and the health of family members. Yet people turn up day after day, meeting patients at the checkpoints, driving them, reassuring them, and proving yet again that the ‘other’ needs to be supported.
On the Palestinian side our Wheels of Hope partner, the Hebron-based Greenland Society for Health Development (GLSHD), has attracted around 150 mainly young Palestinian volunteers. This is an inspirational story because our message of hope, resilience and mutual respect resonates ever louder as GLSHD builds its driver base. These people are driving an ever-wider arc, from the larger cities to small and often remote villages. It can mean starting before dawn to drop patients off at the checkpoints, then returning at night to bring them home.
I also want to pay tribute to our many donors. Thank you for your messages of assistance and encouragement. Philanthropic support can never be taken for granted especially in times of dramatic economic upheaval. However, we have some of the most supportive funders who are dedicated to our mission, and I am absolutely confident that the support is not only robust but ongoing.
While we are all distant, working from home and socially more isolated, we’re planning to embrace technology and hold illuminating webinars for you to remain informed and updated about our projects and programs. More details to come.
Meanwhile, on behalf of all of us at Project Rozana, here in Australia and with our affiliates in Canada, the United States and Israel, I urge you to keep safe. Together we will emerge stronger than ever and even better placed to deliver on our vision for a better future for Israelis and Palestinians.
Ron Finkel AM
Chair, Project Rozana International and Project Rozana Australia