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Palestinian Doctors, Israeli Hospitals, and Bridge-Building for Peace

Palestinian Doctors, Israeli Hospitals, and Bridge-Building for Peace

Palestinian mother and child

As Reform Jews, we are challenged by recent political events in Israel to maintain our steadfast commitment to establish Israel as a truly religious, pluralistic state – and not to diminish the important role she serves as a key element in our identity as Jews. Nevertheless, we must not permit these challenging times to undermine our love and commitment for Israel – the land and its people.

Together, we continue to seek meaningful ways to connect to Israel in the face of government decisions that contradict long-held principles we hold as Reform Jews, and at times, undermine the important connection of Diaspora Jewry to Israel. At a time when contact between Israelis and Palestinians is minimal and hope is in short supply, Reform Jews are looking for meaningful ways to engage directly with Israel regardless of their specific views on the Jewish State. Project Rozana, a multi-faith, international organization that builds bridges of understanding through healthcare, is one such initiative.

Founded in Australia with organizations in Canada, the U.S., and Israel, Project Rozana shows how the Israeli health care system serves a critical role in treating Palestinian patients and training Palestinian doctors and other health care professionals. It is named in honor of Rozana Salawhi, a 4-year-old girl who, in 2013, was treated at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem following a fall from a window in her family’s ninth-floor apartment in a village near Ramallah.

Project Rozana places Palestinian health professionals within Israeli medical institutions and offers training programs to enhance their capacity to deliver needed health care in the Palestinian territories. In addition, Project Rozana, in a partnership with Road to Recovery and its network of more than 2,000 Israeli drivers, transports Palestinian patients, most of them children, through checkpoints to appointments at Israeli hospitals and provides direct support for treatment of Palestinians, primarily children, in Israeli hospitals.

In February 2017, the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) published Heroes of Health – Israel’s Healthcare System as a Model of Jewish-Arab Coexistence, a report about the importance of the health care sector in Israel and its role in creating strong and meaningful professional and personal relationships between Israelis and Palestinians. As Heroes of Health notes and as Project Rozana vividly demonstrates, “[b]y means of shared work and true encounter, mutual respect can be created, which will bring down walls and build good and trusting relationships…between Jews and Arabs,” and can serve as a model for the creation of relations in other sectors of civil society. The report provides wonderful stories and reflections from health care workers and statistical data on the important role that the healthcare system plays in efforts to normalize relations and set the stage for an eventual peace.

Currently, Project Rozana supports several training programs between August Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem and these Israeli hospitals: Hadassah, Sheba, and Assuta. A medical advisory board comprising Israeli and Palestinian doctors advises and recommends additional projects for the organization to launch and support. An international advisory board advises and assists Project Rozana’s directors with networking among other international organizations and government agencies to seek significant support.

Through these activities, Project Rozana provides all of us with an opportunity to contribute – in a small but important way – to the hoped for, long-term peace in the region and enhance our personal engagement with Israel.

To learn more about Project Rozana, plan to attend Health as a Bridge to Peace: Bridges of Understanding Between Israelis and Palestinians Through Health Care, a learning session at the Union for Reform Judaism's 2019 Biennial in Chicago, December 11-15, 2019. Anat Hoffman, executive director, Israel Religious Action Center; Mark S. Anshan, chair, Project Rozana Canada; and Kenneth Bob, chair, Project Rozana USA will be the presenters.

Mark S. Anshan, chair of Project Rozana Canada, has held various positions in the Reform Movement, including president of Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto, Canada; president of NFTY: The Reform Jewish Youth Movement; chair of ARZENU, the umbrella organization of Reform and Progressive Religious Zionists; ARZA Canada, a member organization of ARZENU; and vice chair of the Union for Reform Judaism’s North American Board; He currently serves as counsel and vice chair of the Camp George Council and serves on the Jewish Agency for Israel Board of Governors and the World Zionist Organization Executive Council. Prior to becoming a lawyer, Mark served in the Canadian foreign service at the Canadian UN Mission in New York and Stockholm, Sweden.

Mark S. Anshan
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