Dr Raphael Walden (left), Dr Adi Leiba (center), and Dr Khadra Salami (right) recently visited North America, speaking about Project Rozana.
NORTH AMERICA DOCTORS’ TOUR JANUARY 22 TO FEBRUARY 2, 2018
For 12 days through seven North American cities, Drs. Khadra Salami, Adi Leiba and Raphael Walden shared their inspiring stories about building bridges of understanding between Israelis and Palestinians, with close to 1,000 attendees. The venues were varied, including mosques, churches, synagogues, private homes, hospitals, universities, community centers and a U.S. Capitol Hill briefing room.
We have examples of the press/media coverage of the tour, demonstrating the impact Project Rozana can have on people from all backgrounds and beliefs, and the importance of supporting this critical initiative.
There are also pictures from some of the events, ordered by region.
PRESS AND MEDIA ARTICLES
Building Bridges Through Medicine
Five years in, Project Rozana makes Mideast politics personal.
One of the most memorable stories from the three years he served as the IDF’s chief medical officer in the West Bank took place in 2014, when he invited a group of Palestinian physicians to take part in a training course related to trauma, said Adi Leiba, a top medical professional in Israel.
The invitation was extraordinary for several reasons — not only because the invitation came from the IDF, but because it would bring the doctors to the IDF base at which it was being offered, a proposition that might have rankled fellow Palestinians who opposed any ties to Israel. And developments in the region made their participation even more risky, Leiba recalled during a visit to New York.
Shortly before the course was scheduled to begin, the kidnapping of three Israeli teens from the Gush Etzion bloc of settlements shook Israel, leading to an IDF search operation throughout the West Bank, the killing of five Palestinians and the arrest of 350 others before their bodies were found 18 days later. But despite the escalating tensions, among the most heated of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Leiba insisted that the course take place – and to his surprise, he said, “we had doctors from Ramallah, Hebron” and other Palestinian locales.
It’s a story that Leiba has told repeatedly in the past two weeks, during a 12-day, seven-city tour of the United States, and his point in telling it is to emphasize that cooperation between medical professionals transcends politics.
“This is not something you can put on hold whenever there’s a crisis,” said Leiba, a professor of medicine at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and director of the Nephrology and Hypertension Institute at the Assuta Ashdod Academic Medical Center, a new facility in Ashdod. “When there’s a kid with cancer, you can’t put [his treatment] on hold.”
The tour paired Leiba with a Palestinian physician, Khadra Hasan Ali Salami, and was organized by Project Rozana USA, part of a global organization that promotes better understanding between Israelis and Palestinians through healthcare. Established five years ago in Australia, the organization is now in the process of forming a U.S. board, said Kenneth Bob, its New York-based chairman, and the tour marked its launch in this country.
Bob, who helped re-establish Kibbutz Gezer in central Israel and who heads Ameinu, a progressive Zionist organization, and both physicians spoke in Manhattan last week at the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York and at a private fundraising event on the Upper West Side.
In an interview with The Jewish Week, Bob said the organization’s focus is on three key initiatives: bringing Palestinian doctors, nurses and therapists to Israeli hospitals for advanced training; the transportation of Palestinian patients from checkpoints on the border of Gaza and the West Bank to Israeli hospitals; and the treatment of critically ill Palestinian children in Israel. The transportation is provided by Road to Recovery, a nonprofit organization and one of Project Rozana’s Israeli partners, which has developed a corps of 1,200 volunteers to drive Palestinians before and after their treatment.
What makes this activity especially unique is that it’s taking place at a time when the chances for peace appear more dismal than they have in years. A significant portion of Palestinians oppose what they call “normalization” with Israel — participation in any venture or initiative, local or international, that brings Israelis and Palestinians together — while Israel’s current government is the most right-wing in its history. But despite the hardening of attitudes, one of the few areas in which Israelis and Palestinians are cooperating is healthcare.
Bob has two theories about why. For one, “the people who get engaged in healthcare want to do good,” a value that supersedes politics.
“For Israelis who want to do something [to change the status quo], this is something they can do.”
The other thing I’m hearing is that for Israelis who want to do something [to change the status quo], this is something they can do,” said Bob. To advance that work, Bob added, Project Rozana provides financial support, identifies medical needs and helps build networks of healthcare professionals within Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. Its leadership includes Christians, Jews and Muslims.
In their talk at the JCRC, the two physicians discussed the challenges they’ve faced from both sides in the conflict, as well as the often quiet, behind-the-scenes support they’ve received.
One of the first challenges involves lining up the permission to get patients out of the West Bank or Gaza, said Salami, 38, a pediatric hematology oncology specialist at Augusta Victoria Hospital in east Jerusalem. In addition to authorization from Israel, West Bank residents need approval from Palestinian officials to receive treatment in Israel while Gaza residents need that same approval and permission from Hamas to cross the border.
In addition, Palestinian children from Gaza must be accompanied by a family member older than 45, Salami said, adding that the rule stems from the Israeli fear that younger Palestinians may be more inclined to commit an act of terror.
Salami is among the relatively few Palestinians, nearly all of them physicians, who are permitted by Israeli authorities to drive from the West Bank to Israel without interruption, she said, but she’s experienced moments at checkpoints at which “a soldier treats me in a very non-polite way.”
Distrust between the two sides can also complicate matters, said Leiba, 46, who served in his West Bank post from 2013 to 2016. One such episode involved a Palestinian child on the West Bank who fell into a vat of boiling jam while cooking with his family and suffered burns over 98 percent of his body. Leiba received a call from a Palestinian physician who said the boy would die unless transported to an Israeli hospital. The Israeli doctor said: “but having a kid die in an Israeli ambulance” would have created problems. An ambulance was eventually found, the child endured more than 10 operations and is alive and happy today, Leiba said.
Along with the challenges, though, come examples of cooperation, understanding and friendship, as Leiba’s own story suggests.
As the IDF’s chief medical officer in the West Bank, Leiba’s primary responsibility was to oversee medical care for soldiers, he said. “But when I analyzed the situation, I realized that with 3 million Palestinians, 350,000 settlers and [thousands of] Israeli soldiers, my main mission would have to be to bring those populations closer and build understanding.”
Although intuition might suggest that such an approach would meet with disapproval from the military, Leiba said, the division’s commanders embraced his thinking, which they believed would contribute to calm.
Salami pointed out that, whatever their private feelings, Palestinian officials approve referrals to Israeli hospitals for 100,000 patients each year, treatment that’s subsidized by Palestinian authorities. She also said that uncomfortable experiences at checkpoints are countered by her warm and collegial relationships with Israeli physicians.
Israel’s Ministry of Health and its Ministry of Foreign Affairs both view the cooperation “as a positive thing,” Bob noted. Leiba added that one of the benefits for Israel is that the Palestinian physicians who receive training in Israel are treating Israeli patients while there. But both Leiba and Salami are quick to point out that the cooperation is mostly on a person-to-person level rather than between governments.
The two physicians expressed a commitment to the work that stems from the oath they take as doctors.
“I’ll continue to do this, no matter what people might say,” Salami said. “This is something related to human beings,” and politics is something else.
Interfaith initiative aims to heal bodies, build peace in Holy Land
The Anglican Church of Canada’s global relations director says she’s looking into building closer connections with an interfaith organization that works to increase co-operation in health care between Israelis and Palestinians in the Holy Land. Andrea Mann said that after hearing a presentation by members of Project Rozana in Toronto January 26, she would like to talk more with members of the group…
The Anglican Church of Canada’s global relations director says she’s looking into building closer connections with an interfaith organization that works to increase co-operation in health care between Israelis and Palestinians in the Holy Land.
Andrea Mann said that after hearing a presentation by members of Project Rozana in Toronto January 26, she would like to talk more with members of the group, as well as Archbishop Suheil Dawani, primate of the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East and bishop of Jerusalem, about whether some sort of co-operation with Project Rozana might be possible or advisable.
Founded in 2013 by Hadassah Australia (an organization that raises funds for Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem) and Anglican Overseas Aid, the Anglican Church of Australia’s relief and development agency, Project Rozana aims not just to save lives and improve the health of people in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, but to help achieve lasting peace in the region, attendees at the presentation heard.
The organization focuses on three areas: financially supporting the training of Palestinian doctors, nurses and other health-care workers; helping pay the costs for Palestinians to receive medical care at Israeli hospitals; and providing transportation to Palestinians from checkpoints along Israel’s border with Gaza and the West Bank to hospitals in Israel. This past summer, the organization also paid for the treatment in an Israeli hospital of Syrian children injured in the civil war, Project Rozana board member Mark Anshan said.
The event featured, in addition to remarks by Project Rozana board members, talks by two doctors who live and work in the region: Dr. Raphael Walden, a deputy director of the Sheba Medical Center outside Tel Aviv and chair of Physicians for Human Rights Israel, another group that works to provide health care in these areas; and Dr. Khadra Salami, a pediatric oncologist at Augusta Victoria Hospital in Jerusalem.
The assistance to Palestinians is direly needed because of the poor quality of medical services and the widespread poverty in the West Bank and Gaza, Walden said. The need for medical care is particularly strong in Gaza, an “open-air prison,” he said, where hospital shelves are often empty of basic supplies, electricity is typically on for only three to five hours a day and 90% of the water is unfit for drinking.
“The situation in Gaza is catastrophic,” he said. “It is, nowadays, a humanitarian disaster.”
Salami said the biggest challenge in getting Israeli medical care to her fellow Palestinians, especially in emergency cases, is the difficulty involved in getting through the checkpoints that separate Palestinian territories and Israel. She herself, she said, lives in Ramallah, in the West Bank, which would be a 10-to 15-minute drive to her hospital; but because of the checkpoints, the trip takes about an hour and a half. Travel to hospitals in Israel is also difficult because Palestinians, with some exceptions including doctors, are not allowed to drive their cars in Israel, she said.
Walden also acknowledged, in response to a question from an attendee, that Israeli security forces sometimes use the promise of medical care at Israeli hospitals as a way of enticing Palestinians to provide them with intelligence about other Palestinians.
Several people who spoke at the presentation said their biggest hope for Project Rozana would be that it would foster understanding between Israelis and Palestinians.
This is especially important now because, since the construction of the wall between Israel and the West Bank after the Palestinian uprising that began in 2000, contacts between Israelis and Palestinians have become more and more rare, Salami said.
“As long as people are away from each other, the gap will be more and more big, and each one will have bad thoughts about the other side,” she said. “So, bringing people together—and this is actually possible through health care—will make people gather and share the same feelings and share the same hope.” By helping Palestinians get medical care at Israeli hospitals, she said, the hope is that they will then go back to their communities with the idea that not all Israelis are bad.
The group also hopes to have a similar effect on the hearts and minds of Israelis, said Jon Allen, a member of the board of Project Rozana Canada. Its partnership with the Israeli charity Road to Recovery, which provides car rides to Israeli hospitals for Palestinian patients by matching them with Israeli volunteer drivers, for example, aims partly to build bridges between the two peoples.
“The new generation has never met a Palestinian except [Israeli soldiers] at a checkpoint,” he said. “So, these volunteers that are picking people up every day, and taking them to their treatment, and talking to them and having a relationship with them, it’s really going both ways. They’re going back to their kibbutzim (settlements), they’re going back to their towns and they’re saying that all Palestinians also don’t have horns. That’s really what we’re trying to do.”
The Anglican Church of Canada currently has no formal relationship with Project Rozana, although the Rev. Laurette Glasgow, who works as the church’s special advisor for government relations, sits on the board of Project Rozana Canada as a volunteer.
When it comes to funding health care in places like Gaza and the West Bank, Glasgow said, assistance that might seem relatively minor to some can have a huge impact. “Even though a project sounds as though it’s fairly straightforward—like driving people from checkpoints to medical care—it makes a huge difference to the lives of the people,” since the alternative for many Palestinians would be to spend a week’s wages on taxi fare. And a very small amount of extra training provided to Palestinian medical staff could save the lives of children, she said.
From checkpoints to checkups, connecting ailing Palestinians to Israeli care
Pediatric oncologist Khadra Hasan Ali Salami faces daunting challenges every day working at a Palestinian hospital in East Jerusalem, one that lacks the resources or specialists of Israeli hospitals a short distance away. Even her daily commute is a challenge, since she has to pass through Israeli security checkpoints en route from her West Bank home. Though her residence is a 15-minute drive from the hospital, she has to leave by 6:30 a.m. to make it to work by 7:45.
Photo Flash: The Legacy Of Screen And Stage Star Theo Bikel Lives On
“All children are my children, I cry for them with same tears” wrote actor, singer and peace activist Theo Bikel a year before he died. Some 200 people gathered at a magnificent Beverly Hills estate on Sun Jan 28 to celebrate his life and memory, while raising funds for Project Rozana: Building Bridges to Peace through the medical treatment of wounded and ill Syrian children in Ziv hospital in Israel. The evening, organized by the Theodore Bikel Legacy Project, saw a coming together of Jewish and Syrian, Palestinian, Lebanese and Pakistani Muslim guests, politicians, and Hollywood.
Writer and journalist Aimee Ginsburg Bikel, Theodore Bikel’s widow and the director of the Theodore Bikel Legacy Project, organized the evening and served as the master of ceremonies. Ginsburg Bikel spoke lovelingly of jer late husband, who was not only a movie, stage and TV star and a multi best selling recording artist and tireless activist for peace and social justice, who mourned deeply for all of the children of the middle east suffering from the many year long violence and conflict. “This is how Theo would want to be remembered,” she said, “With people coming together to listen to wonderful music, with peace in their heart, with the goal of making the world a better place, while changing the world and building peace not only in places of conflict and war but right here in our own backyard.”
Israeli Superstar musician and multi-platinum album recording artist David Broza, named by the Guardian as the Israeli Bruce Springsteen, was there to give the attendees a full private concert. A Palestinian and an Israeli Doctor working with Project Rozan, to get Syrian and Palestinian children treated in Israeli Hospitals, spoke to the transfixed audience about their work. Rabbi Neil commess Daniels and Interfaith activist Mahommed Khan blessed the crowd with Jewish and Muslim prayers for peace.
A tirlelss peace activist and multi platinum recording Artist, David Broza, was rewarded by the crowd with long standing ovation for his music and flamenco guitar. Congressman Brad Sherman’s office awarded Broza a special flag, which had flown over the US congress, “…in appreciation of all he has done to bring peace to the world, following in the footsteps of the great Theodore Bikel by using his music to make the world a better place.”
The fundraiser took place in the gorgeous estate of Joshua and Lisa Greer and was attended by CA state Treasurer John Chaing (=governor candidate); state ASM Richard Bloom and his wife Robbie Black, State Senator Ben Allen, Consul General of Austria Mr Andreas Launer, Israeli Consul Karin Pery, Actor Ayelet Zurer (Angels and Demons, Munich, Superman, Daredevil), Jac Hotzman (founder of Elektra Records) TV writers/producres Raphael Matthew Bob-Waksberg (BoJack Horesman), Dahvi Waller (Mad Men), and Wendy Stanzler (Sex in the City), Syrian Peace Activist Dalal Hanoun, star Urdu singer Shakila Levy, among others
The Ziv hospital in Tfat has opened its doors to wounded and ill Syrian children in a remarkable gesture of neighborly caring, and despite the obsticles standing between the two countires. Dr Hadia Al ABdulla from Syria spoe of the fact that there are really no viable options for adquate healthcare in Syria any more, and parents, desperate for treatment for their children, endure a dangerous journey to the Israeli border, where the Israeli soldiers hekp them cross the border- and then they are sent to Ziv Hospital. Project Rozana is funding these treatments. More than 2000 Syrian kids have now been treated at Ziv Hospital.
The Theodore Bikel Legacy Project was founded by Aimee Ginsburg Bikel after the passing of Theo Bikel in July of 2015. The project has been very busy organizing events, producing media, hosting converations and screenings, and organizing Mr Bikel;s extensive archives which were recently aquired by UCLA. For more information, please visit www.theodorebikel.org
By BWW News Desk, Feb. 2, 2018
Images courtesy of The Theo Bikel Legacy Project
Doctors hope to bring Israelis, Palestinians together through health care
Despite the tension and conflict that persists between Israelis and Palestinians, each year, 100,000 Palestinians cross through army checkpoints to be treated in Israeli medical facilities. As they receive medical care that’s far superior to anything available in the Palestinian territories, many of them are interacting with Israelis on a human level, getting to know each other and relating outside of any political context. That can only be good for fostering understanding, dialogue and better relations between the two peoples, say two proponents of increased dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians.
Despite the tension and conflict that persists between Israelis and Palestinians, each year, 100,000 Palestinians cross through army checkpoints to be treated in Israeli medical facilities. As they receive medical care that’s far superior to anything available in the Palestinian territories, many of them are interacting with Israelis on a human level, getting to know each other and relating outside of any political context.
That can only be good for fostering understanding, dialogue and better relations between the two peoples, say two proponents of increased dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians.
Dr. Raphi Walden, a professor at Tel Aviv University, and Dr. Khadra Salami, who specializes in pediatric oncology at Augusta Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem, say that sort of peaceful contact at the personal level can help promote peace at the political level.
At least, that’s the theory and hope that the two have been sharing with audiences in Canada and the United States over the past few weeks.
Walden and Salami were in Toronto recently, as part of a two-week tour designed to drum up support in North America for a venture called Project Rozana.
Walden and Salami were in Toronto recently, as part of a two-week tour designed to drum up support in North America for a venture called Project Rozana.
Supporters of Project Rozana can assist by helping finance three elements of the program: teaching, training and transportation, she added.
Mark Anshan, chair of Project Rozana for CIJA, said the international program was created in 2013 by Australian entrepreneur Ron Finkel. It raises money to train Palestinian doctors and students in Israeli hospitals, which helps boost the capacity of the Palestinian medical establishment, he said.
Other funds go to finance the treatment of Palestinian patients in Israeli hospitals and to transport Palestinian patients into Israel.
The ultimate rationale for Project Rozana is “health for peace,” to build bridges between the peoples through health care, Anshan said.
According to Walden, medical infrastructure, expertise and capacity is lacking in the Palestinian territories, so Palestinians flock to Israel for treatment.
That provides “the opportunity for Israelis and Palestinians to meet and to break the monolithic image that all Palestinians are terrorists, or that all Israelis are oppressing the Palestinians,” he said.
“I believe that the majority of people on both sides want to live peacefully with a two-state solution in a peaceful relationship.”
As for Salami, the walls and checkpoints imposed by Israel “enlarge the gap” between the peoples. “If you let more and more Palestinians go into Israel and be in contact with the Israeli population, this will make a difference,” she said.
Her own experience travelling through Ben Gurion Airport brought her in contact with an Israeli Jew.
This can change people’s minds, she said, and help them realize that not all Palestinians are bad people or terrorists.
An Intimate Evening with David Broza: A Benefit for All Children in Israeli Hospitals
On January 28th, in the backyard garden of Lisa and Joshua Greer’s home in Beverly Hills, The Theodore Bikel Legacy Project, led by its Director, Aimee Ginsburg Bikel, presented a benefit for Project Rozana USA’s Syrian Children Campaign, which raises funds for the emergency medical treatment of Syrian children in Israeli hospitals.
In the middle of the night, in grave danger, Syrian mothers bring their critically ill and wounded children to the Israeli border. Once there, the Israeli army brings them over and into safety at Ziv Medical Center in the northern Israel town of Tzfat. Project Rozana, an Israeli initiative and international non-profit, funds the transportation and treatment of the children and provides hospitality for their mothers.
Due to the war in Syria, there are no longer any adequate facilities to treat children desperately in need of medical care. Project Rozana USA has committed to raise $75,000 to treat these children at Ziv Medical Center. As the Israeli hospital closest to the Syrian border, the Ziv Medical Center has treated about 1,000 wounded and critically ill Syrian children since 2013. Recently, children with chronic medical conditions are being treated as well, and the hospital reports that they have been arriving by the busload.
On January 28th, in the backyard garden of Lisa and Joshua Greer’s home in Beverly Hills, The Theodore Bikel Legacy Project, led by its Director, Aimee Ginsburg Bikel, presented a benefit for Project Rozana USA’s Syrian Children Campaign, which raises funds for the emergency medical treatment of Syrian children in Israeli hospitals. Project Rozana’s vision is to build bridges to peace by funding healthcare for all children in the region at Israeli hospitals. 100% of the evening’s funds raised, through the efforts of The Theodore Bikel Legacy Project, go to Project Rozana USA. The take-away: Now is the time to build bridges to peace by saving these innocent children whose daily lives are full of danger, suffering, loss, and pain.
The intimate and moving evening featured the internationally renowned Israeli musical superstar, multi-platinum recording artist, and peace activist David Broza. Broza shared his infectious music and the story behind his critically acclaimed album and film, “East Jerusalem, West Jerusalem”. His music reflects a fusion of the three countries in which he was raised: Israel, Spain, and England.
Attendees included California State Treasurer John Chiang, California Senator Ben Allen, California Assemblyman Richard Bloom, Austrian Consul General Andreas Launer, Israeli Consul for Public Affairs Karin Pery, and former Jewish Journal Publisher/Editor-in-Chief Rob Eshman.
Two doctors from Project Rozana, one Jewish and one Muslim, enlightened the attendees about their life-changing work. They were: Dr. Khadra Hasan Ali Salami, Pediatric Hematology-Oncology Specialist at August Victoria Hospital in Jerusalem; and Dr. Hadia Al Abdullah, a Syrian doctor now living in L.A., doing refugee work. Other honored guests included: Dr. Raphi Walden, Deputy Director of Chaim Sheba Medical Center (Tel Hashomer); and Kenneth Bob, Chair, Project Rozana USA.
From the office of Congressman Brad Sherman, a flag that has flown over the U.S. Congress was presented to Broza in honor of his continuing in Bikel’s footsteps using his music in the service of Tikkun Olam, healing the world.
Hazzan Mike Stein of Temple Aliyah warmed up the audience, playing the oud. A Syrian buffet was courtesy of Wafa Ghreier , from the Kobee Factory in Van Nuys. Desserts from Westwood’s Sunin Bakery, courtesy of owner/baker Dolly Sunin.
The Theodore Bikel Legacy Project honors and keeps alive the memory of the beloved actor, singer, Yiddishist, and peace and human rights activist. This is through advancing his passions for music for Tikkun Olam, the preservation and renewal of Jewish culture, in particular the Yiddish culture, and keeping Theo’s own work available to all.
“I have been tortured by thoughts of children—Jewish, Palestinian, Syrian, Iraqi children, all those who most innocently of all, and most grievously of all, are victims of the Middle East madness. ‘Rachel mebaka et baneha’ – Rachel mourns her children. With her, I weep for the children, knowing that they are all her children, our children, every one of them.”–
Theodore Bikel (Summer of 2014, during the war in Gaza)
BY MARK MILLER ||
Israeli and Palestinian Doctors Build Bridges Through Healthcare
When Khadra Hasan Ali Salami goes to work every morning, she has to pass through Israeli military checkpoints, an often dangerous prospect for someone driving a car with Palestinian license plates. Salami, an oncologist, is one of about 700 doctors from Palestine that have permission to cross into Israel every day for work.
On Jan. 22, Salami and Adi Leiba, an Israeli professor of medicine, spoke about their work at a Jewish Community Relations Council of New York event. Healthcare, they believe, is the path to peace in Israel and Palestine.
The event is one of several that will take place across the country in the next two weeks.
“We hear so much in the news about Israelis and Palestinians at odds, you know, even just look at the last week,” said Noam Gilboord, director of Israel and international affairs at JCRC NY, introducing the event. “It often takes away from the complexities of the conflict and does such a disservice to the people on the ground.” Not only is there a push to treat Palestinian children in Israeli facilities, which often have more and better equipment, but also to develop better healthcare in Palestine.
Project Rozana is one such organization helping doctors like Salami and Leiba do this work. They train doctors in Israeli hospitals, transport Palestinian patients to and from checkpoints, and treat those patients when the Palestinian Authority is no longer able to afford it. The project started in Australia in 2013 with a focus on building peace through healthcare.
“That’s really the headline of the entire organization, not just the program today,” said Ken Bob, the chairperson of Project Rozana in the United States. “We believe it’s an area, probably the largest area in civil society, across the Israeli-Palestinian communities in which there is every day, every minute, cooperation.”
Bob introduced Salami and Leiba at the event, saying that, rather than present a PowerPoint with medical statistics, the organizers wanted the audience to humanize the issue.
Salami spoke about her experience as a doctor in Palestine where she lacks Israel’s higher-level facilities.
“I’m really willing and I’m really happy to do the training and the fellowship,” she said. “But so many issues face me. First of all, I have to leave the country because we don’t have an advanced system to continue the education at any hospital in Palestine. And leaving the work and leaving the family is not easy.”
She said she has worked with many Israeli doctors, always without issues.
“As a doctor, I don’t have any problem dealing with an Israeli doctor because we are talking about a patient,” said Salami. “My patients should have the best of the best.”
Leiba spoke next about his experiences practicing medicine in the Israeli Defense Forces. Leiba had only been a civilian for a little over three weeks when he came to New York. Before leaving the army, he started to think about what comes next.
“I realized I had an opportunity to make medicine a bridge between our people,” said Leiba. “And that’s exactly what I did. I must say, humbly, that you need some courage to do it within the army because the army by definition, it’s a military organization, but I must also say that my commanders were very fond of it.”
Immediately, Leiba started organizing conferences with Israeli and Palestinian doctors.
“We did an amazing kidney conference in Nablus,” he said. “So, we did the medical conference, went to the top of the hill and looked at the amazing Palestinian city of Nablus.”
During the question and answer portion, Bob asked both speakers to address challenges as well as positives. Leiba mentioned that patients often die on the way to the hospitals. Salami added that it is a challenge for poor families in Palestine to afford Israeli medical treatment.
“And it’s treatment not just for one thing,” said Salami. “They have to come back every few weeks for a session, for chemotherapy.”
The event concluded with the point that, although we are inundated with news about war in the Middle East, there are people there leading normal lives, hoping for peace. Both speakers believe that their professions will bridge the Israeli-Palestinian divide.
“It’s not just what we hear in the news,” said Salami. “Talking to each other will bring people together.”
Healing the divide: Palestinian, Israeli doctors say healthcare a key part of achieving peace
Dr. David Schnadower, a pediatric emergency medicine physician at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, told visiting Israeli and Palestinian doctors that he had recently been treating a patient with a swastika tattoo who was discussing President Donald Trump’s proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. “And I’m a Mexican Jew,” Schnadower said, generating laughter from fellow healthcare providers in the conference room at the Washington University School of Medicine.
That situation “must be so much more pronounced” in Israel and the Palestinian territories, Schnadower suggested, “so I wonder how you deal with that?”
On Jan. 31, the Israeli and Palestinian doctors stopped at the hospital, community centers and religious institutions around St. Louis as part of a trip sponsored by Project Rozana, an organization that sees improving healthcare for Palestinians as a key to achieving peace.
“When you go to the hospital, you will see this mixture of people from both sides; you will not find this different treatment or different behaviors from both sides — the Palestinians and the Israelis,” said Dr. Khadra Hasan, a pediatric hematology-oncology specialist at August Victoria Hospital in Jerusalem.
Dr. Ralph Walden, deputy director of the Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, added that the medical system in Israel is “an island of goodwill and equality.”
“We have senior chiefs of departments who are Israeli-Arabs and they are absolutely respected,” said Walden, who was the personal physician to his father-in-law, the late Israeli President Shimon Peres. “We have two directors of hospitals who are Arabs in Israel and most of the staff is Jewish — there is no problem about that.”
Still, Walden and Hasan did describe unique problems inside and outside hospitals in Israel and the Palestinian territories that affect patients’ health.
They stopped in St. Louis, as part of a tour around the U.S. and Canada, and aimed to form relationships with American doctors and raise money for Rozana trainings for Palestinian healthcare providers.
“Another part of it is that it’s the first time that people maybe hear a Palestinian doctor talking about the good relations with the Israeli side so this is an opportunity for me as a Palestinian to let people know that there are good things to hear and not just bad news in the TV,” said Hasan.
Walden said Rozana does “a lot” of advocacy to allow patients to acquire permits to travel from Gaza or the West Bank to Israeli hospitals, but he said the larger goal is providing better training to Palestinian providers so patients don’t need to make the trip.
“It’s nice for an [Israeli hospital] doctor to treat 120 patients on a given day, but if you train a Palestinian doctor in an Israeli hospital,” over the years “he will be treating hundreds of thousands of patients,” Walden told the 15 healthcare providers gathered in the conference room that morning.
Otherwise, there are often deficiencies in primary and specialty care in Palestinian hospitals. For example, “when you are taking care of diabetic patients, they are not giving fancy diabetes medications — they are just giving regular insulin,” Hasan said.
There are also often hurdles in trying to transfer patients in need of specialized care from the West Bank or Gaza to Israel.
After receiving permission “you will have patients crossing the checkpoint every day [and] delays in transferring,” Hasan said.
And in Gaza, which is controlled by the terrorist organization Hamas, there are additional hurdles, she said.
But if they are able to receive treatment at Israeli hospitals, that care from Israeli doctors can have ripple effects, said Walden, who has worked at hospitals in the West Bank and Gaza.
Palestinians may see a different side to Jewish Israelis if they have positive interactions with them in a hospital, providing a more balanced view if they had negative encounters with Israelis, Walden said.
“We don’t have the ambition of drastically changing the health conditions in the West Bank but for these 320 patients we treat,” and those in “neighboring villages, this is a message of hope,” he added.
In addition to the stop at the hospital, the doctors also spoke at Hillel at Washington University, Central Reform Congregation and the Islamic Foundation of Greater St. Louis.
Carolyn Amacher, a co-chair of the local chapter of the Jewish organization Ameinu and one of the organizers of the doctors’ visit, describes herself as a “progressive Zionist” and said she is trying to promote a “two-state solution where people of all backgrounds have full rights as citizens.”
“I worry about any of the vulnerable populations, including the Palestinians, getting full access for their basic needs to be met, including healthcare and social services,” said Amacher, who belongs to Central Reform Congregation and works for The Community Action Agency of St. Louis County, which aims to end poverty in the area.
As to what happened with the patient with the swastika tattoo, Schnadower said that if the patient had learned his background, “I don’t how they would have reacted but I treated them like I would treat anyone else.”