It’s no secret in our circles that the last few years have represented a challenging time for Project Rozana, when looking to partner with the United States government on building solid relationships between Israelis and Palestinians.
But the incoming Joe Biden Administration has signalled its intention to put support for projects between Israelis and Palestinians back on the table.
The commitment of the US Government to encourage closer people-to-people relationships in health is a welcome outcome for Project Rozana.
The Trump Administration chose to close a variety of communication channels with Palestinian leaders and cancel long-standing funding opportunities for cooperative cross-border projects.
The tide began to turn near the end of 2020. The passage of the $250 million Nita M. Lowey Middle East Partnership for Peace Act (MEPPA), for which we extensively lobbied, together with our friends at ALLMEP, the Alliance for Middle East Peace, was a milestone.
This five-year initiative includes the People-to-People Partnership for Peace Fund, which will be led by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). It will be guided by a Congressionally-appointed advisory board, to provide funding to groups like Project Rozana and the dozens of other organizations that work in this space.
While this will likely take a year to 18 months to implement, this initiative could potentially include additional partners like the EU, the British Government and others.
The second part of MEPPA is the Joint Investment for Peace Initiative, which will provide investments in projects that contribute to the Palestinian private sector economy in the West Bank and Gaza, particularly small- and medium-sized enterprises owned by Palestinians. This will increase economic cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians.
In parallel, newly elected U.S. president, Joe Biden, signalled an intention to re-engage with the Palestinian people and, among other steps, his administration immediately reopened funding for cross-border projects through the USAID Office Conflict Mitigation Management.
In the coming weeks we will be submitting an application to fund one of our critically important programs, similar to our recent submission for the EU Peace Initiative funding opportunity.
Although we are yet to finalize that program, it will most likely be one that already has support among our Israelis and Palestinians constituents.
It also heartening to know that the funding to the East Jerusalem Hospital Network is being reinstated, especially since we work so closely with their member institutions and know from up close the life-saving work they carry out every day.
The conventional wisdom is that the time is not ripe for a bold Israel-Palestine diplomatic peace initiative. It’s also evident that the Biden administration has other, more urgent Middle East priorities.
This makes it all the more important that the U.S. Government has placed a high priority on investing in people-to-people efforts to build a constituency for peace.
This will, in turn, allow us to leverage the groundwork we have laid in recent years and increase our impact where it matters.
Kenneth Bob, Chair Project Rozana USA
EU SUPPORT FOR CHILD PSYCHOLOGISTS BEGINS
A significant grant (about US$900,000) from the European Union’s Partnership for Peace program has guaranteed the continuation of the only training program for Israeli and Palestinian child psychologists in the Middle East.
The leaders of this program, Prof Esti Galili-Weisstub and Dr Shafiq Masalha.
The Project Rozana-initiated Binational School of Psychotherapy (BSPT) at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem was officially inaugurated in September last year and classes for the first cohort are well underway.
The group of 29 of post-graduate therapists from Israel, the West Bank and Gaza commenced COVID-safe training as a result of the ground-breaking €742,000 EU grant (approx. US$900,000).
Seed funding from World Vision Australia and Project Rozana in 2016 allowed a pilot program to be rolled at Hadassah Hospital involving 13 young Israeli and Palestinian mental health professionals. The success of that trial and the pressing need for skilled child therapists in this conflicted region influenced the EU’s support.
The BSPT will now become a World Health Organization-accredited school, training and preparing 60 Israeli and Palestinian post graduate psychotherapists in a 42-month cycle.
Hebron-based Green Land Society for Health Development is the newest project partner. The BSPT is led by…
- Esti Galili-Weisstub, Director of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Hadassah Hospital and a world-renowned expert in the treatment of conflict related trauma.
- Shafiq Masalha, an Arab-Israeli clinical psychotherapist, President of ERICE (Empowerment and Resilience In Children Everywhere) and senior academic lecturer at Tel Aviv University and Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
The EU declared that the BSPT is significant in,
“the improvement of mental health care and treatment for conflict-affected children and adolescents in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza and Israel.”
Funding and foundational support for the BSPT was one of the first major initiatives of Project Rozana after its establishment in 2013. It recognised that the greater Jerusalem area had the highest incidence of youth trauma in Israel. This reflects issues around domestic violence, sexual abuse, bullying and inter-communal conflict.
The primary project outcome of the EU grant is the continued expansion of technical capacities (mostly therapeutic and clinical) of Israeli and Palestinian mental health professionals in a cross-cultural context.
The project will also increase professional interaction between Israeli and Palestinian mental health professionals in a parallel peace-building program. And as a result, build mutual trust and promote co-existence.
The BSPT is an important element of Project Rozana’s training programs, all of which will have the long term benefit of lessening Palestinian dependence on the Israeli healthcare system.
PROJECT ROZANA INTERNATIONAL IS SWISS BOUND
Project Rozana is aiming to become an international development organisation. It is working on formally establishing Project Rozana International as a Swiss Association with a permanent presence in Geneva.
Our international arm is capable of delivering significant, long-term and sustainable outcomes, which reflect its core mission of building bridges to better understanding between Israelis and Palestinians through health.
According to International Board Chair, Ron Finkel AM, the signs of Project Rozana’s global significance are reflected in the nature of the relationships being built. These include the Palestinian Authority, the UN, and related agencies such as the WHO, and governments including the EU, Australia and Canada.
Mr Finkel said,
“They are also reflected in the nature of the programs that we are developing. These will have long-term and significant impact on the delivery of health outcomes to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and on the Palestinian health network through capacity-building initiatives.”
The Project Rozana International Association structure will provide a level of formality and give Project Rozana International a presence independent of the affiliates. Each of the Chairs of the founding member affiliates, Australia, Canada, Israel and the USA, approved and signed the Articles of Association.
Mr Finkel said he believes the process will be finalised within the next few weeks.
He also extended the organization’s thanks to Geneva-based lawyer, Arun Chandrasekharan, for his support. Mr Chandrasekharan is also on the Board of B8ofHope, a Swiss not-for-profit that has some overlap with the work of Project Rozana.
A MILLION REASONS TO CELEBRATE PROJECT ROZANA
The Australian Government has gifted US$1,000,000 to the Palestinian Authority for COVID-19 relief after representations by Project Rozana.
It follows a direct request from the PA to Project Rozana. Australia’s Foreign Minister, Senator Marise Payne (pictured above) and Health Minister, Greg Hunt, actively facilitated this gift.
The money will be channelled through the World Health Organisation which will coordinate its deployment with the PA Ministry of Health. It will be used to provide critically-needed medical equipment and technical assistance to the Palestinian health system particularly in Gaza.
It follows a direct request from the PA to Project Rozana, which was the first NGO in 2020 to provide ICU-enabled ventilators and training for hospitals in the Palestinian Territories.
The decision represents a seismic shift in Project Rozana Australia’s engagement with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) group.
DFAT’s role is to work with other government agencies to ensure that Australia’s pursuit of its global, regional and bilateral interests are coordinated effectively.
Jacqueline Pascarl, a member of the Project Rozana Australia board and an experienced CEO in the NGO/NFP sector, described the decision as a tipping point,
“not only towards acceptance and accreditation, it is the biggest test regionally (towards) acceptance as a credible and dependable NGO in the region.”
The Palestinian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Riad Maliki, praised Australia’s “excellent response” in dealing with the pandemic and its generous offer of support.
He also paid tribute to Project Rozana for helping to steer the request through the appropriate Australian Government channels.
Chair of Project Rozana International and its Australian affiliate, Ron Finkel AM, described the Australian Government’s decision as truly significant.
Mr Finkel said the COVID-19 pandemic was cutting a swathe through Palestinian society, in part because its health system lacked critical infrastructure to deal with the growing crisis.
“We have achieved many milestones since Project Rozana was established eight years ago. But with so many lives in the balance, none are more timely or urgent than this.
I want to pay tribute to Australia’s Foreign Minister, Senator Marise Payne, and the Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, for actively facilitating this grant. It will have a direct impact on the health and wellbeing of the Palestinian people.
The grant received strong support from the Government of Israel, which recognises that defeating the pandemic must be based on a regional approach.
The insidious nature of the disease means that it can only be contained through cooperation. This approach is key to Project Rozana’s vision of building better understanding between Israelis and Palestinians through health.”
Mr Finkel also paid tribute to the continuing support of the Palestinian Representative to Australia, Izzat Salah Abdulhadi, whose office liaised between the Australian and Palestinian governments.
He also acknowledged the assistance of Mark Bailey, the Australian Ambassador to Palestine, and to the tireless work of Dr Jamal Rifi AM, a board member of Project Rozana Australia and International.
The Project Rozana office in Israel will assist with customs clearance and delivery of the goods to the PA, and cover all the related costs on the Israel side.
Mr. Finkel added,
“The generosity of the Australian people will be noted in Jerusalem and Ramallah. Equally, the role of Project Rozana, an international NGO that was born in Melbourne, is further evidence that Australia is an emerging and significant player in supporting the health needs of Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza.”
PEACE ONE STEP AT A TIME
Project Rozana is working with the Hebron-based Green Land Society for Health Development (GLSHD) to address the needs of Palestinian adults and children living with disabilities.
This cross-border project between Israeli and Palestinian communities and institutional stakeholders will be known as ‘Rehabilitating Peace’.
This is a high priority initiative that is waiting on funding to proceed. Project Rozana has made a submission to the EU Peace Initiative for this extraordinary milestone project.
The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics has released figures that indicate about 93,000 people in Palestine live with a disability or impairment. This is approximately 2.1 percent of the population. One fifth of these are children.
However, according to studies by the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF and the World Bank, the rate of disability is severely underestimated. They believe it is closer to 7%.
They argue the discrepancy is due to cultural, social and political circumstances as well as the methodologies used to collect data. Palestine is lagging behind. The unmet disability need is worryingly high.
It will be known as ‘Rehabilitating Peace’. (It should be noted that a local family in Hebron has donated land for a dedicated rehabilitation facility).
Dr Akram Amro heads GLSHD and works closely with Project Rozana on other initiatives, including the Wheels of Hope free transportation service. He says there is growing demand for rehabilitation services. This is due to higher survival rates from disease and injury, the rising prevalence of non-communicable diseases, an ageing population, and the demand on health services for people with congenital disorders.
Quoting from a report by the WHO, Dr Amro says,
“Rehabilitation aims to maximise functioning and supports those with health conditions to remain as independent as possible, participate in education, and be economically productive. It is therefore a cost-effective investment.”
Ron Finkel AM, Chair of Project Rozana International, says the strategy will bring together Palestinian rehabilitation practitioners with the world-renowned Loewenstein Hospital in Ra’anana, Israel’s largest and leading rehabilitation centre.
Ronit Zimmer, Executive Director of Project Rozana Israel, said it’s important to note that Loewenstein Hospital is owned by Clalit Health Services, the largest state-mandated health service in Israel. She says,
“This is a huge accomplishment for Project Rozana, because we are linked to a large and influential health provider that reaches into the Israeli heartland.”
The purpose is to design and undertake joint research. Then develop and implement a comprehensive training plan for Palestinian physicians, nurses, therapists, dieticians, psychologists and other specialists at Loewenstein Hospital.
Central to the project is a three-year program designed to establish a baseline study of disabilities in Palestine and the ensuing rehabilitation gaps. The first cohort of 40 practitioners from the rehabilitation fields will undertake a ‘training the trainers’ program at Loewenstein Hospital. They will return to train their peers and work at the new facility.
It will coincidentally promote peace through government, civil society and positive engagement between people from both communities, especially people with disabilities and their families.
NURSING MISSION TO GAZA
Project Rozana recently arranged for the founders of Nurses from the Middle East, Naela Hayek and Julie Benbenishty PhD, and senior ICU nurses working with Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem, to work with their Gazan counterparts to deal with the issues raised by the Ministry of Health.
Naela Hayek and Julie Benbenishty
The spiralling infection and death rate in Gaza and the desperate need to train ICU medical personnel, prompted the Gaza Ministry of Health (MOH) to issue an urgent request to Project Rozana in December last year.
Dr Abdullatif Alhaj, Director General, International Cooperation with Gaza’s Ministry of Health, arranged for Mohammed Alhaj, chief nurse at the European Gaza Hospital (EGH), to liaise with Project Rozana staff in Israel.
EGH is the largest COVID hospital in the enclave.
The goal was to enhance the knowledge, skills, and best practices of Gazan health-care professionals dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak.
Project Rozana had already established its credentials with the leaders in Gaza’s healthcare system by providing the Palestinian Authority with ICU and non-ICU enabled ventilators together with support and training earlier in 2020.
Ron Finkel AM, Chair of Project Rozana International said,
“The Palestinian health system’s capacity to cope with the drastic increase in cases remains severely affected by longstanding health system challenges and critical shortages in infrastructure and human resources.
The pandemic has posed a huge challenge for healthcare providers who need additional knowledge and skills to respond effectively.
Capacity building in human resources to test and treat COVID- 19 must run in parallel to equipping health care facilities.”
Project Rozana arranged an initial meeting between the EGH and Hadassah on December 28 to outline the desired format and target audience.
Regional Director of Project Rozana International, Dr. Raed Mansour, and Project Rozana Israel Executive Director, Ronit Zimmer, were also present at the virtual meeting,
A further meeting was held on January 5, 2021 to identify the needs and gaps in training and capacity for the COVID-19 crisis in Gaza. Mohammad was joined by 20 nurses from EGH, while Naela and Julie were joined by senior medical personnel from Hadassah.
Given the circumstances, it was agreed that the online sessions would be run along the lines of ‘Train the Trainer’. Senior nurses with ICU and COVID-19 experience would then be able to train junior nurses in the hospital. This would continue the ‘trickle-down effect’ for nurses throughout the MOH in Gaza.
The following modules informed the sessions held throughout January and February this year…
- Protection from COVID-19 for nurses in ICU
- Types of Oxygen Therapy uses in ICU ADVANCED MODES OF VENTILATION
- Advanced modes of ventilation
- Nitrus Oxide and ECMO for COVID-19 management
- Patient monitoring (Hemodynamic and Respiratory) in the ICU
- Case Studies
- SimulationsThe Executive Director of Project Rozana,
Ruth Ramone Rosen, said that the reality of COVID and the geopolitical pressures in the region prevented face-to-face training.
“But the relationships of mutual respect, trust and support being built will provide a solid platform for expanding this initiative in the future.”
NEW MEMBER OF INTERNATIONAL ADVISORY COUNCIL
Professor Sir Edward Byrne AC has joined Project Rozana’s International Advisory Council. Current members include Tim Costello AO, Prof Saleem Haj-Yahia, Martin Indyk and Mark Sofer.
Prof Byrne is a distinguished neuroscientist, researcher and Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences.
Until February 2021 he was President and Principal at King’s College, London. He was previously Vice-Chancellor Monash University and completed his medical training in Australia before moving to the UK.
Ed has now joined the Global Executive board of Ramsay Health as Group Chief Medical Officer.
NEW APPOINTMENTS TO THE BOARD OF PROJECT ROZANA ISRAEL
Three new appointments have been made to the Board of Project Rozana Israel. We welcome…
Dr Janan Faraj Falah, senior lecturer at the Arab College of Education in Haifa.
Israeli Sana Zayadna, a psychotherapist.
Dr Elias J. Issaq, Chief of Urology at Holy Family Hospital, Nazareth.
Project Rozana Israel now has its most diverse board yet for the organization, in terms of gender, background, ethnic and religious affiliations.
Israel is currently also appointing sub-committees to support the board in management, fundraising and public relations, strategy and implementation, medical and general peace-building endeavors.
Among her many distinguished achievements, Dr Janan Faraj Falah is a senior lecturer at the Arab College of Education in Haifa, a researcher at the University of Haifa, chair of the Academic Committee at the Galilee College, Ghetto Fighters’ Center and academic Center for Conservation in Acre.
She is also author of ‘The Druze Woman’.
In 2003, she founded and managed the ‘Vision of the Women of Acre’ association to advance the status of women in Acre and the north. Recently, the association led a project to support Arab and Jewish diabetics, the first of its kind in Israel.
A firm believer in the power of women to change the destiny of humanity for the better, Janan established the Women’s House for Peace in Acre.
She was a recipient of the Rappaport Prize in 2016.
Sana Zayadna is a psychotherapist from the north of Israel who abandoned computer teaching in favour of behavioural studies. She received an MA in educational counselling and spent three years in a private clinic as a family therapist.
Sana is committed to developing and implementing projects in the youth mental health space. She believes that developing projects for children who transition to teenagers and then adults, enables them to move beyond the conflict that can too easily shape our lives.
A specialist in urology since 1983, Dr Elias J. Issaq is Chief of Urology at Holy Family Hospital in Nazareth, northern Israel. He is a member of the Palestinian Association of Urology, and the Israeli Association of Urology. He is a past member of the European Association of Urology.
Dr Issaq is a past president of the Rotary Club of Nazareth, past president of the Lions Club of Nazareth, and past member of the Christian House Institution in Haifa.
He hails from a proud Palestinian family and is committed to bringing Israelis and Palestinians together, especially in the field of medicine.
We look forward to introducing six new committee members, all highly qualified and committed, who have joined Project Rozana Israel to augment the Board’s work and programs.
NOAM TAMIR AT THE HELM OF PROJECT ROZANA UK
The race in 2020 to provide life-saving ventilators for the Palestinian health system introduced a loose affiliation of supporters in the UK to the our family. That association has now been formalised and Project Rozana UK has been born. Led by Noam Tamir.
So the inaugural chair is Noam Tamir. Before moving to the UK, Noam gained degrees in Engineering and Computer Science and Industrial Management from The Technion, Haifa.
He acquired his initial management skills in the Israeli army, where he was a Captain in one of Israel’s elite squads. He was the youngest officer in Operation Entebbe raid in July 1976.
He founded Isys (Israeli Systems) in 1987 as a major provider of distance learning systems and IT services. The company designed computer-based training (pioneering the use of Artificial Intelligence) for many of the top 100 UK corporates. Following its sale in 1999, he founded Healthcare Learning, Europe’s leading provider of commercial, internet-based training services for healthcare professionals.
In 2017 Noam co-founded Circle Sq., “a dynamic network for purposeful and interesting people over 50.” Together with his business partner, he set the mission is to “inspire the growing population of over 50s to channel their energy, experience and wisdom for everyone’s benefit.”
Noam is a Governor of the Hebrew University, Jerusalem and a Trustee of the Faith and Belief Forum. As an entrepreneur he always founded businesses which had a significant impact on society.
NEW APPOINTMENT FOR PROJECT ROZANA USA
The most recent addition to the board of Project Rozana USA is a man dedicated to building bridges between Israelis and Palestinians through health. We are pleased to introduce Dr Robert J Stillman.
Robert is particularly committed to health as a bridge to peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
Dr Stillman is a Washington D.C. Board-certified fertility specialist. He began in academics and education at George Washington University. He then moved to private practice as Medical Director and in 2020 as Medical Director, Emeritus at Shady Grove Fertility.
He was awarded his M.D. at Georgetown University School of Medicine. He completed his Residency at Duke University, and his Fellowship in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at Harvard.
Dr Stillman is associated with several other Jewish philanthropies, including Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, AIPAC, AJC and ALLMEP (Alliance for Middle East Peace).