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Building better understanding between Israelis and Palestinians through health

Building better understanding between Israelis and Palestinians through health

Rozana (left) and Maysa Abu Ghannam in Melbourne for the pre-launch meeting of Project Rozana, May 2013.


An international initiative raising funds for the transport and treatment of critically-ill children from the West Bank and Gaza in Israeli hospitals.

Also funding the training of Palestinian doctors, nurses and therapists in Israel, to improve and expand healthcare in Palestinian communities.


Commentary by Ron Finkel, Founder of Project Rozana.


Four days after the horrific terror attack on Muslim worshippers in Christchurch, New Zealand and the shock and pain is still raw. I am struggling to make sense of my feelings.

It will take time, if at all, to come to grips with the motivations that drive these wanton acts of depravity – whoever the perpetrator and wherever they lie on the ideological or political spectrum.

What kind of mindset, I ask myself, can possess an individual that he can fire callously in to a crowd of innocent, prayerful individuals, while live streaming the slaughter as if he was a pest control contractor undertaking a commercial extermination.

I realised that this is indeed the logical extension of the state of mind of a small, but significant, part of society in Australia, the United States, the UK, France and many smaller countries in eastern parts of Europe.

It is the same mindset that, in recent memory, has seen Serbs slaughter Bosnians, ISIS attempt genocide on Yazides and Burmese murder and rape Rohingas.

It is the natural progression – hate, to demonisation, to dehumanisation. The logical extension for those who say that elements in society are a “cancer” or “deadly virus”. The obvious conclusion – they have to be eliminated.

It is a mindset that is without question a product of people who have never had occasion to know the “other” in their midst. To engage. To befriend. To celebrate shared values.

It is the mindset of the racism that underpinned the Nazi ideology which assigned Jews and Gypsies to the category of sub-human – vermin that needed to be actively and systematically eliminated.

It is a mindset that stands in such contrast to our Mission. Project Rozana is a mission inspired by the experience of day to day life in Israel’s hospitals where presumed ‘enemies’, Israelis and Palestinians, work together. As professionals they deliver the best possible outcomes to patients from all ethnic, religious and national backgrounds.

Working together, healing the body and healing the soul and, in the process building relationships for a better and more positive future.

This is, at its essence, the story of Project Rozana. We are a group of people from diverse backgrounds engaged together as Australian, Canadians and Americans, in support of those on the ground in Israel and Palestine, who are making a difference to health outcomes through their work.

Project Rozana is the clear antithesis of the extremist narrative.

Project Rozana has offered me the opportunity to build deep and close relationships with wonderful individuals globally from a wide variety of religious and ethnic backgrounds. To retain my deep and solid foundations in the Australian Jewish Community but not be solely defined by them. I can say that my life has been qualitatively enriched by the friendships that I have built individuals who, without Project Rozana, I would never have had the pleasure of meeting.

I truly believe that pro-action is infinitely more meaningful than reaction.

The internet, social media and public discourse are too full of extreme framings – the kind of language of hate that has a singular inevitability whether it be Montreal, Paris, Pittsburgh, Charleston or Christchurch.

This, for me is the imperative of this latest madness – the need to reach out, engage, explore and connect with the cultures and lives of diverse ethnic and religious groups who together help weave the fabric of our society.

It is time to return courtesy to discourse. To inject respect into robust debate and way beyond time, to engage positively with the ‘other’.

That is the Mission of Project Rozana. This is our small contribution – bringing Australians, Canadians and Americans together in support of Israelis and Palestinians. Building bridges to better understanding through health.


MARCH 2019

The Chair of Project Rozana USA, Kenneth Bob, gives editorial comment in this update of recent news and programs.

In progressive political circles I am sometimes asked why I work on initiatives like Project Rozana when peace negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians are non-existent… wouldn’t a singular focus on affecting political change be more effective? A harsher criticism of the work we do is that it “normalizes” the unsustainable status quo on the West Bank and Gaza.

I believe that in fact both a political track and grassroots work are essential elements of an Israeli-Palestinian peace strategy. While Project Rozana makes no claims to directly affect the macro-political track we have every hope that we can have impact at the people to people level.

While every conflict has its unique causes and characteristics, I think it is instructive to look at the experience of the situation in Northern Ireland, or “The Troubles” as they were called. After many years of seemingly intractable political conflicts and violence, at the time of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, there were 5,000 co-existence projects underway between Catholics and Protestants. The agreement needed to be approved by voters across the island of Ireland in two separate referendums and experts agree that the existence of grassroots support developed through these contacts was essential for the wide margins of passage.

It is important to note that the funding for much of this effort came from the International Fund for Ireland (IFI) and there are proposals pending in governmental venues around the world, including in the U.S. Congress to establish a similar International Fund for Israeli-Palestinian Peace.

In a study entitled “A future for Israeli-Palestinian Peacebuilding,” Ned Lazarus, a Professor at George Washington University, lays out the case that such mimicking the North Ireland experience would be meaningful in the case of the Middle East conflict. He points out that there are currently 164 co-existence organizations operating in the Israel-Palestine realm, and only 39 with a budget over $1 million.

Jonathan Powell, Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Chief of Staff and the chief British negotiator during the Northern Ireland Peace Process, wrote that,

“The IFI prepared the ground for peacemaking – it began its work 12 years before the Good Friday Agreement was signed. And it made peace sustainable.” He adds that “by following the successful precedent of the International Fund for Ireland, the proposed new Fund would provide a consistent, sustainable and transparent funding source equipped to bring to scale the successful models and the best practices discussed by Lazarus.”

I would further suggest that Project Rozana is a perfect application of this approach as it contains three key elements of successful initiatives, according to the research.

A significant number of people are touched by the activity, and there are repeat engagements. The sad fact is that many of the patients and chaperones transported by Road to Recovery drivers to appointments at Israeli hospitals are on a regular schedule of radiation, chemotherapy or some other treatment. These repeat contacts between driver and patient families, between doctors and patients, build over time and develop into durable relationships.

Secondly, the engagement through our training programs creates strong bonds between hundreds of professionals on both sides of the Green Line, who in turn have extensive personal and professional networks who can be influenced by their experiences.

Finally, the objective of the strategic training initiatives is to build healthcare infrastructure and human capital in local West Bank and Gaza communities. This will create societal building blocks that are critical when a peace agreement is ultimately reached.

Unless we build constituencies and cultures of peace among both Israelis and Palestinians, future peace negotiations will not have the environment and public support they will need to succeed. Therefore, a parallel approach of governmental and grassroots engagement is essential for reaching last peace between the Palestinians and Israelis.

Kenneth Bob, Chair Project Rozana USA 



In 2013, Project Rozana entered the world as an initiative to use Israeli excellence in healthcare, to benefit the Palestinian community.

The idea has quickly gained traction as people recognise that healthcare can build bridges to peaceful coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians. It is the only area of civil society where Israelis and Palestinians meet on such a broad scale and on equal terms through mutual respect.

Project Rozana is a child of its time, invested in the wisdom of people globally. Today, this initiative, which emerged from the leadership of Hadassah Australia, has been embraced by affiliates in the United States, Canada, Israel and across the Palestinian Territories.

It only has one agenda, without regard to politics, national identity, gender, sexual orientation or religious belief. This is to provide the Palestinian community with the best training and treatment available in Israel. So Palestinian society can build its own institutional capacity, to provide world-first healthcare for its people.

Project Rozana is gaining international momentum as people recognise that a change to the status quo is necessary, achievable and morally correct.

Ron Finkel AM, Chair, Project Rozana International


There are sister organizations round the world promoting Project Rozana.

Australia, Canada, Israel, USA flags



Project Rozana is closely associated with:


Our partners include:


We have joined forces with:

Project Rozana partner logos

Project Rozana is now a global initiative. It has been adopted by a number of respected organisations in Canada, the United Kingdom and Israel. The list of countries signing on to Project Rozana is growing, as its work gains traction among people of goodwill.

Project Rozana partner logos

Project Rozana is now a global initiative. It has been adopted by a number of respected organisations in Canada, the United Kingdom and Israel. The list of countries signing on to Project Rozana is growing, as its work gains traction among people of goodwill.








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