EDITORIAL – BRIDGING THE DIVIDE
BY MARK S. ANSHAN
In its February 2017 report Heroes of Health: Israel’s Healthcare System as a Model of Jewish-Arab Coexistence, the Israel Religious Action Center makes the following point about the importance of healthcare as a bridge to better relations between Israelis and Palestinians:
“The lives of Jews and Arabs in the state of Israel are carried out, in almost all fields, in complete segregation: separate living areas, separate education systems… and in the world of business.
“Against this background, the public healthcare system stands out. In hospital hallways… an alternate reality prevails: Arabs and Jews work together for hours and days, during long and exhausting shifts, as one team.”
Palestinian healthcare workers – particularly doctors and nurses – are serving in Israeli hospitals, caring for all patients. Project Rozana is funding an increasing number of these workers – as well as mental health therapists – through training that is designed to enhance their skills and build the capacity of the Palestinian healthcare system.
The long-term aim is less dependence on the Israeli system, and a standard of healthcare in the Palestinian territories that is the equal of Israel.
It is in this space that Project Rozana is providing clear evidence that regular contact between Israelis and Palestinians in the area of healthcare – where the focus is to maximize successful patient outcomes – can make a meaningful contribution to achieving peaceful coexistence between these two communities.
To witness the truly amazing relationships between Israeli and Arab/Palestinian healthcare workers gives great hope that the current situation will be overcome.
This became very clear to those of us who had the privilege to visit the Assuta Hospital in Ashdod in February.
Project Rozana initiated a training project between Assuta and Augusta Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem for the training of health professionals to provide peritoneal dialysis to Palestinian patients. Thirty of us were at the meeting – Project Rozana leaders, the CEO, doctors and staff of Assuta, the CEO, his doctors and staff of Augusta Victoria – discussing the next steps in the implementation of the project. We toured Assuta, had lunch and made strong, personal connections. The picture of the two CEOs sitting next to each other at the head of the table, facilitating the meeting and connecting directly for the first time, was an inspiring and emotional event. The healthcare professionals talking about the training needs and details for implementing the program conversed as if they had been working together for years.
The day after our time at Assuta, we met with senior medical staff at Rambam Hospital in Haifa. There too, (like Sheba Hospital, Hadassah Hospital, Wolfson Hospital and other major medical centers), Rambam continues to provide critical care for Palestinian patients and training for Palestinian medical professionals. Our meeting was the first with Rambam to explore the possibility of Project Rozana supporting training programs.
The connections that Project Rozana is helping to make between Israeli and Palestinian healthcare workers is contributing significantly to an already well established system of cooperation and support, for meeting the healthcare challenges faced daily by Palestinians.
Project Rozana addresses three timely and critical needs:
- The treatment of Palestinian patients who require care in Israel that is not available in the Palestine territory.
- Transportation of Palestinian patients to Israeli hospitals, and
- The training of Palestinian healthcare workers that will enhance much needed healthcare capacity.
This is happening against the background of continuing conflict between Israel and its Palestinian neighbor. The Oslo Accords were meant to be the beginning of the process to achieve peace. The situation, since 1993 has, with great sadness, moved in the opposite direction. The lack of creative, progressive, visionary political leadership has resulted in ongoing conflict informed by policies and actions that are contrary to realizing a mutually-agreed settlement.
Project Rozana is helping to build and strengthen the bridge to peace through health. This is the one area of civil society that has no barriers. And where the ultimate objective of caring for all regardless of who they are, is leading to building and sustaining relationships among people.
Mark S. Anshan, Chair, Project Rozana Canada