Commentary by Ron Finkel, Founder of Project Rozana.
TUESDAY 19 MARCH 2019
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.