NEWSLETTER AUGUST 2020
Dr JAMAL RIFI AM, Board Member, Project Rozana Australia
Seven years ago, Project Rozana began with a simple mission: to build bridges between Israelis and Palestinians through health. This year, that mission took on greater urgency as COVID-19 began to infect and then kill an increasing number of people in both communities.
We watched in horror as the numbers mounted, coming to the realisation that there was no apparent way to bring ‘hostilities’ to an end. There was no one to reason with. Like every other NGO we became witness to a crisis that the world hasn’t experienced for more than 100 years. We were all bystanders to an evolving catastrophe.
But then something remarkable happened. We saw how the fruits of our labours began to blossom. Our vision and hard work coalesced into an opportunity that was always at the heart of our mission – to be relevant to the people we felt enabled to assist through the agency of their respective governments.
That moment happened when the Palestinian Foreign Minister, Riyad al-Maliki, reached out to Project Rozana. The Palestinian Authority desperately needed ventilators for its overstretched health system and, in particular, COVID-19 enabled invasive ventilators for its most at-risk citizens.
Dr al-Maliki revealed two sobering facts. The first is that there are only 322 adult ventilators operational in the West Bank and Gaza, or one per 16,000 people. Most of these are in use. The second is that given worldwide demand, the cost to buy the needed ventilators was way beyond the government’s reach.
Finding solutions to often intractable problems is our challenge. This is no pipe dream, given our successes over seven years. But the task was herculean. Why made us think we could deliver when larger, better-established and resourced NGOs could not?
The answer is we saw no choice. The infection rate was growing inexorably, and the deaths were mounting. Within a matter of days we secured the in-principle support of three very important actors – the Australian Government, the World Health Organization and the Government of Israel, which agreed to facilitate the speedy transfer of ventilators once they landed in Israel.
We also received the support of some of Israel’s leading tertiary hospitals to provide training in the use of the ventilators and associated equipment that comprised the equipment package.
Our promise was to secure 20 of the needed ventilators which were critical to saving the lives of the most vulnerable people in Palestine. We did this through the Australian Government on a ‘buy now pay later’ arrangement. This was an extraordinary outcome given that each package (ventilators and related equipment, including training) for four COVID-19 ICU ready facilities is valued at around US$200,000. It meant we had to raise US$800,000 globally to ensure we kept our end of the bargain.
We initiated the COVID-19 Palestinian Emergency Ventilator Appeal and approached you – our supporters in the US, Canada, the UK, Israel and Australia. Thanks to your incredibly generous support we are well on our way to meeting our target.
Project Rozana is a child of its time. We feel privileged to partner with you and through you, your networks of influence be they social or financial. We will not compromise the faith you have in us to make a difference to the Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza. Or to the Israelis who have opened their hearts and their hospitals so that our mission can deliver on its promise.
Response to our COVID-19 Palestinian Emergency Ventilator Appeal has exceeded our expectations in so many ways. Not the least of which is the way that donors in the United Kingdom, an unofficial affiliate, have risen to the occasion.
Currently, the total raised across all jurisdictions is US$384,000 against a target of US$400,000. This is 96% of the target, and given the many challenges people are facing, a heartening result.
The money raised is being used to fully outfit up to five COVID-19 ICU-ready facilities in the West Bank and Gaza, particularly hospitals in the hardest hit areas. It will also support Palestinian ICU health professionals with key learnings in COVID-19 ICU treatment acquired in Israeli hospitals.
As of the beginning of August, Rozana’s international effort has enabled us to procure and deliver US$354,000 of vitally-needed equipment.
We are close, but still need your support. And time is not our friend.
Mark S. Anshan, Chair of Project Rozana Canada and one of the key drivers of the fundraising campaign says,
“What we are seeing in Palestine is an unparalleled existential threat to its society from this devastating disease. The number of infections is rising dramatically and the Palestinian health system is at breaking point. We can’t stop the spread of this pandemic, but we can and we must save lives. Too many people are dying and too many will continue to die unless we can deliver these much-needed ventilators and the equipment to support their use.”
We are extremely pleased that the Australian and New Zealand Muslim communities are backing this important initiative. Please refer to a story that appeared recently in the Australasian Muslim Times. More details.
To donate please go to https://www.mycause.com.au/events/projectrozana
OUR MAN ON THE GROUND
There is no playbook for COVID-19. No set of rules that allows us to navigate with ease the incredible destruction the pandemic is causing to societies and to individuals. What we do know is that the need is obvious and growing, and someone has to take charge.
For Project Rozana, that person is Dr Raed Mansour (pictured above).
Dr Mansour is a man of impeccable credentials. He is a medical doctor by training, and a humanitarian by inclination. Born in Israel, he is trusted by Palestinians and Israelis and has dedicated his adult life to community service. He is fluent in Arabic, Hebrew and English.
In other words, he is an honest broker. This is precisely what we needed once we heeded the call from Palestine’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr Riyad al-Maliki for an urgent delivery of life-saving ventilators.
Dr Mansour graduated in medicine from the Haifa Technion. He has an impressive curriculum vitae in business, with a particular focus on social welfare and medical support. But this only tells a small part of a larger story, one that centres on a passion to help people.
In the case of Project Rozana, Raed was tasked with being our point person on the ground in Israel and Palestine.
He is known to the political and bureaucratic elite in both communities. He has a reputation for fairness and for the way he selflessly advocates for people in need. When he talks people listen. He doesn’t always get what he wants, as he is the first to admit, but his words mean something.
In our case, he made sure that the supply chain involving hard-to-get ventilators, associated equipment and training for Palestinian hospitals was seamless. It involved Australia, Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The opportunity for bumps in the road was ever-present, with each one more challenging than the last. Many in his position would have thrown up their hands up in despair. Not Raed. He simply rolled up his sleeves and worked harder.
Today, thanks in large part to Raed’s dogged commitment, Project Rozana has delivered ventilator packages to the Palestinian Authority with lightening speed. As the impact of COVID-19 has worsened, the importance of these ventilators to the preservation of life has increased. Lives have been saved. Relationships have been built. Our standing as a non-political, charitable enterprise that is building bridges through health for the benefit of Israelis and Palestinians has been underwritten.
Prior to his association with us, Raed had set up imaging services, mobile clinics and other professional health services in Kenya, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia. In 2003 he founded the Rampen Center for professional medical services in Haifa and the Western Galilee with the Israeli health benefit organisation, Kupat Holim Clalit. The centres encompassed Jewish and Arab towns and villages, servicing around 14,000 patients a month. The company was sold in 2016.
Rampen began working with Rambam Hospital in Haifa in 2016 on medical tourism and management of medical projects abroad. Then, in 2017, Rampen became Rambam Hospital’s international business partner working on national and international professional development and medical upskilling projects at home and abroad.
With the approval of the Cyprus Ministry of Health, Raed established Sana Unimedical Ltd in Cyprus in 2016 to provide high level Israeli medical and surgical services to patients from Arab countries.
In 2017, with Israeli and Canadian partners, Dr Mansour established m360 in Canada as the sole marketing arm of Rambam Hospital in China.
As a social and political activist, Dr Mansour created a political party in his home village of Usfiya in 2009. The party achieved 47% of the vote in the local elections on a platform promoting equality for the local community and support for the next generation.
Dr Raed Mansour is a member of the Project Rozana Israel management board.
US APPROVES $250m TO ADVANCE ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN DIALOGUE
The US House of Representatives has endorsed the Middle East Partnership for Peace Act, which will deliver US$50 million a year over five years to Israeli-Palestinian coexistence programs and for Palestinian business development.
Immediately following the announcement, the highly-influential Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations (CMAJO), issued a statement welcoming the decision and the impact it will have in building civil society. It will also encourage grassroots peace-building and economic development between Israelis and Palestinians.
The CMAJO is the recognized central coordinating body representing 53 diverse US-based Jewish organizations on issues of national and international concern.
We’re pleased to report that one of drivers behind this announcement is Kenneth Bob, Chair of Project Rozana USA and a veteran lobbyist for Israel-Palestine coexistence.
Mr Bob is also Project Rozana’s representative with the Washington-based Alliance for Middle East Peace (ALLMEP). This organisation was one of the powerful voices involved in the House decision.
Its advocacy was applauded by Chairwoman Nita Lowey of the House Appropriations Committee, which led the initiative. She said,
“I want to thank ALLMEP for its tireless commitment to this bipartisan priority.”
Ron Finkel AM, Chair of Project Rozana International, also paid tribute to ALLMEP, which is a coalition of more than 100 non-government organisations building cooperation, equality, coexistence, mutual understanding and peace in the Middle East.
“I want to commend Ken for his quiet diplomacy that has been recognised by CMAJO and ALLMEP. These are important organisations that are results-oriented and in sync with Project Rozana’s priority of building the health capacity of Palestinian society.”
Following the announcement, ALLMEP said in a statement, “We know the transformative power of people to people interactions and believe them to be a prerequisite for long-term peace.” It noted the tireless work of Nita Lowey of New York, who it described as “the pro-Israel stalwart who championed the spending.”
John Lyndon, Executive Director of ALLMEP, confirmed that programs initiated by Project Rozana are well-positioned to receive funding from the package.
“We know people-to-people programs can transform the lives of Israelis and Palestinians and their outlook on the conflict. Now these programs will have the resources necessary to transform entire communities, and the political reality that flows from them.”
VOX ROZANA IN THE TIME OF COVID
Project Rozana and online news service Plus61JMedia co-hosted a webinar in late July to review the latest news from Israel and Palestine around the dramatic rise in coronavirus-related infections and death.
The webinar was moderated by Jerusalem-based Australian journalist, Irris Makler.
‘Fighting the Hidden Enemy: Palestinians and the battle against COVID-19′ gave the community an opportunity to hear from four important voices whose insight into events on the ground in Israel and Palestine bear witness to the unfolding COVID-19 tragedy.
For Project Rozana, it was also a timely opportunity to publicise its Palestinian Emergency Ventilator Appeal, which has delivered critical ICU-enabled ventilator packages to the Palestinian health system.
The panel included (pictured above, left to right)…
- Huda Abuarquob, Regional Director for the Alliance for Middle East Peace (ALLMEP).
- Head of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Office in Jerusalem, Dr Gerald Rockenschaub.
- Project Rozana directors, Ron Finkel AM and Dr Jamal Rifi AM.
Huda Abuarquob from her Dura home, near Hebron in the West Bank, said,
“I can hear the sirens every two to three hours coming to the hospital with new patients. The situation on the ground is grim. Hebron has become the West Bank’s epicentre of COVID-19 infections.”
- Hebron’s large population.
- The free flow of workers and Bedouin community members travelling from Israel to the West Bank through Hebron.
- Lack of testing facilities in Hebron and in the Bedouin community.
- And insufficient police resources to enforce restrictions on gatherings.
Despite receiving initial praise for its COVID-19 response, Abuarquob described how there is now growing criticism towards the Palestinian prime minister and the health ministry. She believes Hebron businessmen have put pressure on the government to allow them to reopen their businesses and that the Palestinian Authority’s inability to pay government employees’ salaries heightened frustrations.
“The government could not provide for the people who have been sitting at home with no income whatsoever, so people kind of rebelled against that. People now are literally going almost day-by-day with no food.”
Dr Rockenschaub said that despite previous, successful virus collaboration between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, there are now inconsistencies in public health measures across both sides.
“The discussion and threat of annexation which eventually triggered the suspension of coordination [between Palestinians and Israelis] is posing additional challenges to bringing urgently needed humanitarian supplies. Deliveries of testing kits, medical equipment and personal protective equipment is delayed because it is quite cumbersome at the moment to get customs clearance.”
Dr Rockenschaub believes Palestinians must contain the virus through greater testing, tracing and quarantining and respond collaboratively with Israel.
Ron Finkel agreed that COVID-19 must be addressed regionally.
“If you’re an Israeli politician, epidemiologist or health professional, you cannot say ‘we’ll deal with Israel’s issues and we won’t consider what is happening in the West Bank.’ The more that they can look at it holistically, the better off everyone will be.
We’ve had affiliates in Canada, the United States of America, Australia, Israel and the United Kingdom all pitching in but it takes more than just philanthropy…this is really where you bring philanthropists and government together for a combined outcome.”
Project Rozana is currently in discussions with numerous governments and will work with the WHO to coordinate ongoing fundraising and delivery of medical equipment and training.
Dr Rifi discussed how Project Rozana overcame difficulties to urgently source and fund ventilators, obtain permits from Australia’s government to export equipment of national significance and transport them into the West Bank.
He described seizing the opportunity to help the Palestinian health system as a “core objective of Project Rozana.”
In Hebron, Abuarquob praised Project Rozana’s professional and coordinated approach and commitment to civil society.
“Project Rozana is a global government in itself, run in a very functional way and responding in a time of crisis.”
Further campaign information… mycause.com.au/events/projectrozana
WHEELS OF HOPE KEEP TURNING
The number of Palestinian patients seeking treatment in Israel has returned to pre-COVID-19 numbers. This is a very pleasing outcome as the lack of access to Israeli medical services for many Palestinians had the potential to severely compromise their physical and mental health.
This is the news we had been waiting for. It was delivered by our Project Rozana Wheels of Hope partners – Green Land Society for Health Development (GLSHD) in Hebron, Humans Without Borders (HWB) in Jerusalem, and Road to Recovery (RtR).
Ruth Ramone Rosen, Executive Director of Project Rozana, after speaking with the heads of the three organisations says,
“Despite the continuing spread of Covid-19, a resilient group of volunteers has returned to activity and, on a daily basis are assisting the patients and families. Many of the young Israeli and Palestinian volunteers who supported the initiative from the early days of the coronavirus spread were reactivated. Older volunteers who generally fall into the high-risk age group, have not been able to continue driving. ”
The three organisations are working with a coordinated strategy to ensure transport for patients who are referred from the Palestinian Ministry of Health to Israeli hospitals.
In the West Bank, the closures of many services meant that GLSHD needed approval from the Palestinian Authority to acquire special safety kits for both patients and volunteers. This included gloves, masks, and gowns. These weren’t always available or affordable.
The organisations reported that from mid-March to mid-May as a result of the dramatic rise in COVID-19 cases, the Bethlehem, Beit Jala and Beit Sahur areas were isolated by the Palestinian Authority. It meant that children requiring medical attention were unable to get to the hospitals in Jerusalem.
To overcome this problem, Project Rozana arranged for Augusta Victoria Hospital to accommodate all children undergoing dialysis treatment in a hotel in East Jerusalem. The Wheels of Hope partner organisations assisted further by purchasing toys, games and arts and crafts materials. These were received with great joy by the children.
This unprecedented and unplanned for pandemic has strained everyone, many to breaking point. In practical terms it has meant even longer delays at checkpoints, adding to the fear and frustration of patients and their families.
But the selfless work of the Wheels of Hope volunteers has not gone unnoticed. As one family member said after his child received a gift,
“We thank you very much for the present, but your presence today and your continuous support are the most beautiful gifts of all. I hope you remain healthy and in good spirits, as always. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
NEW DIRECTOR BRINGS BITE TO A BOARD HUNGRY FOR ACTION
You can never accuse Jacqueline Pascarl of being a shrinking violet. The outspoken community activist, author, documentary filmmaker and media identity has dedicated her adult life to giving voice to and achieving rights for those who have been marginalised or whose lives are at risk.
In announcing her appointment, Chair of Project Rozana Australia, Ron Finkel AM, said Ms Pascarl is an experienced CEO in the NGO/NFP sector.
“We are thrilled that Jacqueline recognised the importance of Project Rozana’s mission to achieve healthcare parity for Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza. Her CV is inspiring and her experience will add immeasurably to the work that we do in Israel, Palestine and the affiliate countries that make up the Project Rozana family.”
Among her many accomplishments, Ms Pascarl conceived Operation Angel in 1997 to champion the needs of women and children in war and disaster zones.
She has lectured at the US State Department and DFAT on the Hague Convention and International Parental Child Abduction.
She is perhaps best known for her fearless work over 14 years to secure the rights to see her two eldest children who were victims of parental abduction. As a result of that experience, she has assisted in the repatriation of more than 390 abducted children globally.
Mr Finkel encourages readers to view her background