ISRAELI AND PALESTINIAN MEDICAL LUMINARIES SPEARHEAD PROJECT ROZANA TOUR OF NORTH AMERICA
Three prominent medical specialists dedicated to advancing relations between Israelis and Palestinians through health embarked on a seven-city roadshow around the United States and Canada.
Their purpose was to promote the remarkable spirit and activism of Project Rozana, a global initiative which has united communities in Australia, the US, Canada, Israel and the Palestinian Territories to build health capacity in the West Bank and Gaza.
The first North American speakers’ tour of Project Rozana began in New York on 22 January and concluded on 2 February in Chicago. The group visited Washington DC, Toronto, Los Angeles, San Francisco and St Louis.
Headlining the tour were Dr Khadra Salami, a paediatric haemato-oncologist and a senior clinician at the Augusta Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem; Professor Raphael Walden, a Deputy Director General of Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv, and the Founder and former President of the Israeli NGO, Physicians for Human Rights; and Professor Adi Leiba, Head of the Department of Nephrology at the Assuta Hospital Ashdod and a former IDF Head of Medical and Health Operations on the West Bank.
“I couldn’t be more delighted at the quality and passion of these wonderful and dedicated medical ambassadors,” says Ken Bob, Chair of Project Rozana USA.
“Each member of the speaking tour is an accomplished medical specialist, who has a proven track-record in seeking ways to leverage health for the betterment of society at large, and not simply their own.”
Mr Bob, who was responsible for developing and funding the program, and liaising with committees and community leaders in each city, said the program was carefully designed to allow attendees to gain a better understanding of the importance of interpersonal relationships in achieving successful health outcomes.
He said it was important for local audiences to not only hear about the work of Project Rozana from Israeli and Palestinian medical specialists who operate at the coal face, but to engage directly in conversation with the doctors and Project Rozana leadership regarding their ability to carry out their cooperative work in Israel and the Palestinian Territories.
INTERFAITH EVENT TORONTO
The Center of Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA – the Canadian Jewish Community advocacy organization) co-sponsored an interfaith event at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto.
“There was a lively and inspiring discussion with the doctors who were able to convey the importanceof collaboration in the healthcare field, including training and treatment, and the increasingly important relationships that are established between Palestinian and Israel doctors and other healthcare professionals”, reported Mark S. Anshan, Chair of Project Rozana Canada.
He said Dr Salami was asked about criticism from her community for working collaboratively with Israeli colleagues. She said, “For the patients, it is the right thing to do.”
A seminar for doctors held at the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto, provided an important opportunity for Drs. Walden and Salami to discuss the significance of working in partnership with colleagues in the delivery of healthcare services to Palestinian patients.
Dr Salami presented an overview of the challenges being faced by the Palestinian health sector, focusing on her hospital, Augusta Victoria in East Jerusalem. Dr. Walden reported on the weekly health clinics that he and other Israeli doctors conduct in West Bank towns and villages, noting that these services are well received and welcomed by the communities.
The Sick Kids event was organized by Drs. Shawna Novak (Executive Director of CISEPO – Canada International Scientific Exchange Program and coordinator of professional development withthe University of Toronto) and Mark Greenberg (paediatric oncologist at Sick Kids).
UNDERSTANDING ‘FACTS’ ON THE GROUND
At the well-attended gathering organised by the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) in Manhattan on the first day of the visit, Prof Leiba was asked about the dissonance between his cooperative work with Palestinian physicians during his IDF service and the inherent tension between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers on the West Bank. He responded that he doesn’t see it this way and that while the army carries out its mission to keep the atmosphere calm, by developing a joint Israeli- Palestinian medical association, he demonstrateda way to live together and improve healthcare outcomes.
“These weren’t frivolous questions but heartfelt concerns and the answers were frank and demonstrated very clearly how important Project Rozana is to bridging the divide while having very practical and long-term consequences for the health and welfare of the Palestinian people,” Mr Bob says.
Project Rozana is built on four key principles, which the speakers were able to expand on:
- To train Palestinian health workers at Israeli hospitals in needed specialties before returning to build the health capacity of their own communities.
- To treat critically and chronically-ill Palestinian children in Israelihospitals when funding from the Palestinian Authority has been exhausted.
- To treat childrenin Israel from centres of conﬂict in the region, such as southern Syrian, when the health services in their country have been degraded.
- To provide free transport for mainly Palestinian children by Israeliand Palestinian volunteers from the border of Gaza and the West Bank to hospitals in Israel, where the cost would have otherwise been prohibitive.
In addition to the events in Toronto and New York, the Project Rozana doctors addressed a standing room only Capitol Hill briefing in Washington DC hosted by Congressman Jamie Raskin; aninterfaithgathering at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS), the second largest mosque in the US. During their second week of their visit to the USA, Dr Salami, Professor Walden and Professor Leiba were special guests at the Theodore Bikel Legacy Project concert in LA featuring the legendary Israeli singer, David Broza; and held meetings and Q&A sessions at Jewish, Muslim and Christian centres in San Francisco, St Louis and Chicago, as well as at hospitals and universities. Mr Bob said,
“The purpose of this roadshow was to build awareness to the Project Rozana brand and to request funding support for our many activities. Early response has been overwhelmingly positive and shows just how deep the interest is in the role of health as a solution to the issues facing these communities.
It was particularly heartening for us to meet with Muslim, Christian, Hispanic and Jewish leaders, as well as members of the US Congress. Each of them represents an important group that can help to advance the work of Project Rozana.”
Mark Anshan paid tribute to the work of Project Rozana Canada board members Rev Laurette Glasgow, Jon Allen, Karen Goldenberg and Dubai- based Katherine Verrier-Frechette.
Both men praised the work of their respective boards and the professional staff of New York-based Ameinu Inc., which provided logistical support throughout the 12-day, seven city tour.
Chair of Project Rozana International, Ron Finkel AM, said the speakers’ tour is a promising format that will be replicated in the future.