AUGUST 2021 NEWSLETTER

We mark the end of a successful fund-raising campaign. Read about this and more highlights of programs and people.

EDITORIAL

Ron Finkel, Chair, Project Rozana International

Health is the cornerstone of Project Rozana, but so too is our desire to see peace and equity between Israelis and Palestinians. Now, for the first time since 2013, we see an energy, driving positive change between people. Thanks to a new political reality in the region.

We were heartened and excited by news that emerged in late July about a meeting between the health ministers of Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Relations between the two groups have been strained for a long time, making it more difficult to achieve positive outcomes.

Israel’s Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz met with the PA Health Minister Mai al-Kaila and agreed to a number of extremely important initiatives, including:

  • Palestinians vaccinated against the coronavirus in PA hospitals will now be recognized by Israel as immunised.
  • Palestinians from Gaza seeking to enter Israel for medical treatment will no longer need to walk across no man’s land between PA and Israeli checkpoints. Instead, they will be ferried by ambulance.

Israel’s Regional Cooperation Minister Issawi Frej, a veteran Israeli politician, said,

“The deadlock in relations (between Israel and the PA) over the past ten years is unacceptable… You can’t be someone’s neighbour and at the same time ignore one another.”

Despite the political impasse that has been a stumbling block to relations between the communities, there was an abundance of goodwill in the health sectors prior to our entry.

Even during the most fractious time between Israelis and Palestinians, Project Rozana has been steadily, quietly and effectively delivering on its promise to build bridges to better understanding between the communities through projects that help increase the health capacity of Palestinian society.

In particular, it was our desire to see a pathway to health for Palestinian children that informed our approach.

The foundations were solid. We knew this when the COVID-19 pandemic hit both communities hard. Had we not established our bona fides with both governments, it is doubtful we could have delivered desperately needed ventilators and associated equipment in mid-2020 to Palestinian hospitals in a timely and targeted way.

It needed both the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority to fast-track our entry into their respective spheres.

Neither Israel nor Palestine was prepared for the impact on their respective societies. The learning curve has been steep and challenging, and on a scale that we haven’t known in our lifetime.

The tragedy of COVID-19 revealed the fault lines as the world scrambled to understand how to deal with the pandemic.

Even though the two communities are within walking distance at their closest point, for some it is a bridge too far. That is what Project Rozana has been focused on and in eight years we have made enormous gains in building awareness globally to our mission.

What Project Rozana was able to do was codify that goodwill by developing a strategy aimed at three core initiatives:

  1. Advanced training for Palestinian doctors, nurses and therapists in Israel or via remote learning.
  2. Free return transport of critically and chronically-ill Palestinians (mainly children) from their homes to hospitals in Israel via the border checkpoints (from the checkpoints to hospitals in the case of Gazan patients).
  3. In-hospital treatment for Palestinian children where the needed specialisations were not available or in limited supply in the Palestinian healthcare system.

Ron Finkel AM

Project Rozana is well positioned to leverage the warming ties between the two governments for the benefit of Palestinian children and their wider community.

WHEELS OF HOPE CAMPAIGN

More than US$330,000 has been raised so far, in Project Rozana’s first-ever global fundraiser in support of Wheels of Hope (WoH).

The WoH initiative brings together three partner organizations in Israel and Palestine. Their volunteers provide a free return transport service for critically and chronically-ill Palestinian children and their caregivers to hospitals in Israel.

Tagged as ‘Help us build bridges towards peace one car journey at a time”, the campaign recently ended in the USA, Canada and Australia. A specific campaign to launch Project Rozana UK will begin in early September.

Declaring the outcome an “impressive achievement”, the Chair of Project Rozana International, Ron Finkel AM, said despite the impact of COVID-19 on people’s giving capacity, the outpouring of support showed that WoH has resonated with people everywhere.

Mr Finkel said,

“They recognise that we cannot ignore critically and chronically-ill Palestinian children or their parents who are desperate to bring them back to good health. Phase 1 of the campaign, involving the US, Canada and Australia exceeded the $300,000 target by more than 10%.

Whatever divides Palestinians and Israelis, the love they have for their children is shared. This is their common humanity and WoH is both a literal and metaphoric bridge between them.

Our Israeli and Palestinian volunteer drivers are the lifeline for sick children from Gaza and the West Bank. They are selfless and committed to a cause that is critical for these children.

One day we hope to see all Palestinian children accessing their needed treatment in Palestinian hospitals. That is one of the core aspirations of Project Rozana. In the meantime, WoH is the lifeline for these Palestinian children and their families, many of whom do not have the financial means to pay for commercial transport.

Our life-saving work has been recognised by many governments and NGOs. It has meant that Project Rozana is considered to be a serious international contributor to enhanced health outcomes for Palestinians.”

Mr Finkel said that building bridges to peace one car journey at a time is a practical expression of a long-held dream. He paid tribute to the many supporters whose generosity will not only see WoH survive into the future but thrive.

WoH involves three partner organizations,

  • Road to Recovery in Israel.
  • Humans without Borders in Israel.
  • Green Land Society for Health Development in the West Bank.

Road to Recovery volunteer drivers

WHEELS OF HOPE CAMPAIGN EVENTS

Two outstanding webinars supporting our Wheels of Hope global campaign were held in July. Each online event helped friends and supporters in North America and Australia appreciate the depth and meaning of our Wheels of Hope operation.

The Project Rozana North American Wheels of Hope Interfaith event was held on 7 July, co-sponsored by 58 American and Canadian faith leaders, communities and organizations.

It was an inspiring 45-minute program with faith leaders, elected officials and activists from the region sharing their commitment to Project Rozana’s mission and the Wheels of Hope campaign.

Together with Project Rozana USA and Canada board chairs, Kenneth Bob and Jon Allen, the speakers brought greetings and shared their inspiring thoughts during the event.

We were honored to hear from Member of the U.S. Congress Jamie Raskin (pictured left below), who is a longtime friend of Project Rozana, having hosted a Capitol Hill briefing for guests on our North American Speakers’ Tour in 2019.

Ya’ara Saks, a Member of the Canadian Parliament (pictured right below), voiced her support for the Wheels of Hope initiative, referencing friends in Jerusalem who serve as volunteer drivers.

We heard moving sentiments from faith leaders Rabbi Amy Eilberg, Reverend Canon Laurette Glasgow and Imam Talib M. Shareef, as well as greetings from John Lyndon, Executive Director, ALLMEP (Alliance for Middle East Peace).

The central presentation of the evening was a panel with our partners from the region. (shown above). They were Road to Recovery, Green Land Society for Health Development and Humans Without Borders, moderated by the Executive Director of Project Rozana Israel, Ronit Zimmer.

Two videos were shown during the event, both deeply moving.

Hebron mother Lujain speaks openly about the difficulty of the daily visits to Hadassah Hospital for her beautiful little daughter Natsheh’s cancer treatment, expressing her heartfelt thanks and blessings to the drivers on both sides.

The touching video of Abdallah’s Journey beautifully relays the heartfelt thanks of both little Abdallah and his mother, a young Palestinian driver and an older Israeli driver for their role in supporting Abdallah’s short life.

The Abdallah video was also shown during the second online event.

Organized by Project Rozana Australia, on 25 July, the second webinar explored the work of Wheels of Hope through the eyes of,

  • Broadcaster and journalist, Hugh Riminton, who moderated the session.
  • Huda Abuarquob, Regional Director of ALLMEP (Alliance for Middle-East Peace).
  • Vivian Silver, former co-Executive Director of AJEEC-NISPED (the Negev Institute of Strategies of Peace and Development).

They were joined by well-respected social justice advocate Rev Tim Costello AO (former CEO of World Vision Australia).

You can watch highlights of the webinar or enjoy the full webinar.

OUR FIRST CAPACITY-BUILDING INITIATIVE FINALLY ‘GRADUATES’

The dream of Project Rozana has been to create programs that build capacity in the Palestinian health system, on the back of Israeli medical expertise. This dream was realised with the graduation on 18 August of Israeli and Palestinian trainees, who participated in the Peritoneal Dialysis Training Program.

We extend our heartfelt congratulations to the graduates and program leadership teams at Assuta Ashdod Hospital and Augusta Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem.

We heard moving sentiments from faith leaders Rabbi Amy Eilberg, Reverend Canon Laurette Glasgow and Imam Talib M. Shareef, as well as greetings from John Lyndon, Executive Director, ALLMEP (Alliance for Middle East Peace).

Palestinian patients are already benefiting from the program, with an increasing number being treated in local hospitals closer to where they live. The success of this process exemplifies the essence of Project Rozana’s mission to build better understanding between Israeli and Palestinian health professionals.

Project Rozana’s success is judged on giving Palestinian health professionals a hand-up rather than giving Palestinian patients a hand-out. Credit in this instance goes to Prof Adi Leiba of Assuta Ashdod Hospital, who identified the gap, quantified the need and over two years created a plan to address it.

What resulted is a sustainable program whose fruit was borne with the graduation ceremony earlier this month.

Program leaders, Prof Leiba, Dr Hausmann, and Dr Nidal Saifi (Augusta Victoria Hospital), expressed their pride on this landmark achievement. They were joined by distinguished guests,

  • Ron Finkel AM, Chair of Project Rozana (via Zoom).
  • Dr Erez Barenboim, CEO, Assuta Ashdod Hospital.
  • Mr Walid Namour, CEO, Augusta Victoria Hospital East Jerusalem.
  • Doron Levinson, Chair Project Rozana Israel.
  • Dr Raid Mansour, Regional Director Project Rozana.

The Project Rozana Peritoneal Dialysis Training Program began in early 2019. It built a program to expand the professional skills of Israel health professionals and their Palestinian counterparts from Augusta Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem.

Following the ceremony, the participants held a warm and open discussion on the subject of building a bridge between Israelis and Palestinians through medicine.

It was acknowledged that this was a major, ground-breaking program that will have a significant and positive impact among vulnerable Palestinians.

Above is Prof Adi Leiba of of Assuta Ashdod Hospital and Mr Walid Namour, CEO, Augusta Victoria Hospital East Jerusalem.

We are pleased to share Prof Leiba’s thoughts on the program,

“A while ago we finished a unique training of Palestinian and Israeli Nephrologists and Dialysis Nurses on Home Peritoneal Dialysis. It was a collaboration of Assuta Ashdod University Hospital, Augusta Victoria Hospital and the Palestinian and Israeli Renal Society, through Project Rozana funding.

It is great to know that the Peritoneal Dialysis unit that was opened at Augusta Victoria Hospital as a result of this training is taking care of 11 adults and as many as 10 kids from East Jerusalem and the West Bank.“

To mark conclusion of training there was a presentation of certificates to the graduates at Assuta Ashdod Hospital in mid-August. Prof Leiba paid tribute to the leadership of the Project Rozana affiliates for making the program possible. Prof Leiba was one of North America’s guest speakers on a well-received speaking tour in USA and Canada in early 2018, a tour that spear-headed the establishment of this exciting program.

He said he was “extremely proud” of what had been achieved and excited about the possibility of future projects that Project Rozana was keen to discuss.

See too, the next story, ‘An Idea Bears Fruit Over Dinner’.

Above is the team of PD program participants: Doctors, Nurses, Dieticians, Medical Technicians, Secretaries, Social Workers, Invasive Radiologists, Surgeons and Researchers.

AN IDEA BEARS FRUIT OVER DINNER

Life for those on dialysis means five-hour dialysis visits to hospital, three times a week. Prof Leiba posed the question, “If there was an option available, one that would make life considerably easier for Palestinian families, is it something that Project Rozana would consider?”

The story behind the Project Rozana-inspired Peritoneal Dialysis Training Program is no less fascinating than the program itself.

It began in February 2018 with a chance conversation over dinner between,

  • Dr Adi Leiba, Head of Nephrology at the Assuta Hospital in Ashdod (pictured left).
  • Dr Khadra Salami, a Palestinian paediatric oncologist at Augusta Victoria Hospital in Jerusalem (centre).
  • Kenneth Bob, Chair of Project Rozana USA (right).

Prof Leiba and Dr Salami were in the US on a Project Rozana lecture tour hosted by the local affiliate.

Talk turned to ideas that would address known gaps in the Palestinian health system.

For Prof Leiba, there was one that was critically important for the well-being of a growing number of Palestinians living in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.

This Associate Professor at Harvard and Chairman of the Israel Society for Hypertension, as well as the Co-Chair of the Palestine and Israel Renal Society, has been increasingly concerned about the prevalence of diabetes in the Palestinian population.

In conversation he noted that at 15.3%, it is 2.5 times the rate compared to 6%  worldwide. As a result, most Palestinian hospitals support large hemodialysis departments.

Ever the man inspired by a mission, Kenneth Bob said it sounded like the dialysis issue, was a challenge that Project Rozana was born to tackle.

Prof Leiba explained that Peritoneal Dialysis (PD) delivered in the home is well-known and supported in most developed countries but is not available in Palestine.

He proposed that Assuta Hospital and Augusta Victoria Hospital cooperate in a game-changing partnership. That is the training and mentoring of a team of Palestinian health professionals at Assuta in the implementation and delivery of a PD service to Palestinian renal failure patients.

Mr Bob embraced the idea as did the Project Rozana International Board. In early 2019 a two-year fellowship and training program in PD was launched.

Fully funded by Project Rozana, twelve Palestinian doctors and nurses met weekly in the nephrology department at Assuta and cultivated their skill and understanding of this new modality of dialysis treatment.

On 18 August 2021 representatives of all the institutions involved, gathered at Assuta for the ‘graduation’ ceremony of the Palestinian team. It was an emotional and enormously gratifying moment for all involved.

Ron Finkel AM, Chair of Project Rozana International,

“For Project Rozana it was reinforcement of our mission. It involves the identification of a key gap in Palestinian health capacity. And the funding of a cross-border peer-to-peer training program that has delivered a ‘hand-up’ to the Palestinian health network.

 

The program has encouraged Palestinian health professionals to treat renal failure patients with an identified modality of treatment, previously only available outside Palestine.

 

This type of empowerment and self-sufficiency for the Palestinian health system is what Project Rozana is always striving to achieve.

SCHOLARSHIPS FOR PALESTINIAN NUTRITION STUDENTS

Project Rozana saw value in funding 21 East Jerusalem students in post-graduate studies in nutrition at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The students had recently completed a degree course at Bir Zeit, Hebron and Al-Quds universities.

Encouraging pathways to better health outcomes is core to Project Rozana. We supported an initiative of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem(HU) where the students were given the option of undertaking four courses at the University this year.

The courses open opportunities for future work within the Israeli health system. And open key pathways for professional development for the broader benefit of the Palestinian community in Jerusalem and beyond.

Once completed, students will be able to undertake the practical training component of the course, followed by the government exam in nutrition.

The completion of the four academic courses, the examinations and the practical training inside Israeli hospitals, will enable the students to work in Israel as qualified nutritionists. Plus provide them with a working knowledge of Hebrew to enable them to integrate into the Israeli hospital system at large.

Should they work in the Palestinian health system, their expertise will go a long way to strengthening the health system and provide much-needed nutrition-related services to Palestinians.

The benefits of this program are wide-ranging,

  • The Palestinian students will integrate into the Israeli hospital system, creating opportunities for interaction between them and Israeli health practitioners, and patients. This in turn will lead to greater understanding and mutual respect between Israelis and Palestinians in the wider community.
  • Should the East Jerusalem students decide to work within the Palestinian health system, they will have enhanced knowledge, skills and experience, as a result of the coursework undertaken at HU. This will serve to strengthen the Palestinian health system, and provide better healthcare to Palestinians. There is much to be done in the field of nutrition in Palestine. Poor nutrition impacts maternal and child health, escalates the incidence of Type-2 diabetes, and increases other non-communicable diseases.
  • These students can join our growing Project Rozana network of health.

practitioners, and potentially join the women’s primary healthcare initiative in the West Bank. They can develop knowledge on nutrition for Community Health Mobilizers who will then transfer that to the women in their communities.

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

CREDITS. Pictures of Issawi Frej and The Hebrew University of Jerusalem come from Wikimedia Commons.

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