Building understanding between Israelis and Palestinians through health




Mother and child driven by GLSHD volunteer

Project Rozana’s ‘Wheels of Hope’ (WoH) volunteer transportation service in the West Bank is providing the means by which Palestinian patients can access Israeli hospitals for vitally-needed medical services.

The service which began in November 2017 under the management of Hebron-based NGO Green Land Society for Health Development (GLSHD), complements the well-established Road to Recovery service which has been operating in Israel for more than 10 years.

It means that Palestinian patients are offered free return door-to-door transportation from their homes in the West Bank to hospitals in Israel via Israeli checkpoints. Absent the volunteer driver service many families would be unable to cover the prohibitive costs of commercial transport from home to hospital in Israel. For some families, the availability of the service is literally, life-saving. See video below.

With 131 volunteer drivers on its books, WoH is well behind Road to Recovery’s nearly 2000 volunteers. But the newer service is committed to building its cohort of drivers and believes that within five years it will have 1,000 people to call on.

In its first year, WoH volunteers made 737 trips and transferred 73 critically-ill Palestinian adults and children from their homes in the West Bank to the Israeli checkpoints, where they were handed over to their Road to Recovery counterparts.

In its second year, there was an almost four-fold increase involving 3002 transfers and 321 patients.

Ron Finkel AM, Chair of Project Rozana International says,

“From a human investment point of view, this is an extraordinary outcome. As the service grows, so too will the quality of life for Palestinians, and that is what Project Rozana was mandated to achieve from the day of its launch.”

But we cannot overlook the challenges.

As Dr Akram Amro, CEO of Green Land notes in his 2019 annual summary, facts on the ground are creating logistical challenges that will be a priority for the service in the year to come.

“Drivers working in the more remote cities and villages, especially in the northern part of the West Bank, require much more time and fuel due to the long distances and scattered villages. This creates a complex matrix of routes to collect different patients.”

Volunteer fun day for sick children

The high demand for the service is adding financial strain as the additional transportation costs have to be met from other parts of GLSHD’s budget.

The need to cover fuel costs meant that opportunities for more extensive media and PR activities were lost. This resulted in fewer volunteers being recruited which, in turn, affected the coverage for patients. In certain cases they couldn’t be helped to reach the checkpoints for transfer to Road to Recovery volunteer drivers.”

Mr Finkel stated, that in light of these challenges and the huge potential for growth in the West Bank, Project Rozana has agreed to increase its funding from US$75,000 in 2019 to US$94,000 in 2020 to meet patient and organizational needs and ensure the sustainability of the project.

He said,

“We are currently evaluating a Green Land proposal to use two mini-buses as daily transport from North to South and South to North with patients meeting the bus midway. Akram and his team are working tirelessly to build the service so more Palestinians can access Israel’s world-first healthcare system. We applaud their commitment.”

As Ruba Dwaik, manager of volunteer services at GLSHD said,

“Wheels of Hope made me realise how close we are with patients and their families. We know how important it is to be a real friend during the hard times, with no other interest than to help a human in need. The thanks and appreciation we get from patients and their families has become our main source of pleasure and satisfaction. That is a very addictive feeling!”

For more details, please read the newsletter interview with Ruba Dwaik.