Building understanding between Israelis and Palestinians through health





There are moments in life, generally quite rare, when one is entitled to take a step back and reflect with satisfaction on the progress of one’s ‘baby’. This certainly is the case with the recent awarding of a major grant by the European Union to one of Project Rozana’s earliest initiatives – the Binational School of Psychotherapy (BSNP).

The grant of €741,286 (US$820,250 – CAN$1,O87,200 – A$1,193,650) is a game-changer for our organisation, something we could only dream of when we launched in 2013.

The BSNP, established in 2016 with funding provided by World Vision Australia, began as a pilot project. It brought together eight Palestinian and eight Israeli child psychologists for training in the latest techniques for the treatment of Israeli and Palestinian children suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD).

Fast forward three years. The BNSP has now secured funding for a four year accredited training program that will upskill a total of sixty child psychologists – thirty Palestinian and thirty Israeli.

By every measure our work in the areas of transportation, treatment and training has blossomed. The seeds that we planted with the launch of Project Rozana in May, 2013 have literally taken root and begun to make a meaningful impact in a challenging region of the world.

An Australian initiative has gone global. Project Rozana affiliates are now active in Canada, Israel and the USA, in addition to Australia. The number of Israelis and Palestinians impacted by Project Rozana programs is in the many thousands and growing rapidly.

But we do much more than provide a ‘hand out’. We are deeply committed to providing the Palestinian health sector with a ‘hand up’. Building much needed capacity while doing so in a respectful way, that brings Israeli and Palestinian health professionals together and builds better understanding between the two peoples through health.

As we enter a new decade, I not only look back with pride but forward with genuine eagerness knowing that the first phase of our journey has provided a truly robust foundation upon which we will build a sustainable and impactful organisation. Through our work we will go a significant way to ensuring that a large cohort of Israelis and Palestinians will get to know each other. Up close and personal, in a way that they hasn’t happened since the Second Intifada in 2000.

Our thanks to our supporters and partners on the ground who are making this possible.

Ron Finkel AM, Project Rozana International



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!”


Project Rozana Canada received a major boost in early October with the announcement of a $50,000 grant from the Winnipeg-based Asper Foundation.

Established in 1983 by Israel (Izzy) and Babs Asper, the foundation is a major player in Canadian philanthropy. It was the leading private sector funder of the magnificent Canadian Human Rights Museum in Winnipeg.

The announcement by the Foundation President Gail Asper and its Executive Director, Moe Levy, was made in the presence of Project Rozana International Chair, Ron Finkel and Project Rozana Canada Board Director and former Canadian diplomat, Jon Allen.

The grant was followed by a visit in mid-November by Ms Asper and Mr Levy to the Augusta Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem, a key beneficiary of support from Project Rozana for capacity-building initiatives through training in paediatric haemato-oncology and peritoneal dialysis.

The support of the Asper Foundation signals a major step forward in the growth of Project Rozana Canada.

Jon Allen said,

“The imprimatur of a nationally-regarded donor such as the Asper Foundation is a positive endorsement of Project Rozana’s Mission to build better understanding between Israelis and Palestinians through health. We hope it will be a catalyst for other Canadian Foundations, agencies and individual donors to follow suit.”

Left to right: Gail Asper, Asper Foundation; Ron Finkel AM, Chair Project Rozana International; Jon Allen, Board Member Project Rozana Canada

Asper Foundation representatives, Moe Levy (left) and Gail Asper (third from the left) meet the paediatric haemato-oncology team at Augusta Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem.


In life, Aiia Maasarwe was a deeply loved member of a proud Palestinian-Israeli family from central Israel. Like her siblings and friends, she dreamed about peace in her region and the benefits it would bring to her country, her community and to her own personal ambitions.

But in a cruel twist, on January 16, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia, Aiia’s life was taken from her in the most brutal way imaginable. An exchange student at La Trobe University, Aiia was on the phone to her sister when she was randomly attacked, raped and murdered.

While most of her dreams will rest in the memory of those who knew her well, one dream will take flight and change lives in ways that Aiia could never have imagined.

The Aiia Maasarwe Memorial Medical Fellowship Program was created by Project Rozana to honour Aiia’s memory, and to use it as a springboard to build professional relationships between Palestinian and Israeli healthcare workers for the benefit of both communities.

Finding pathways to peace between people had been a motif of Aiia’s life. Her family believes that codifying that hope in Project Rozana’s fellowship program would have been warmly embraced by their daughter and sibling.

Her father, Saeed, and sister, Noor, travelled to Australia on the eve of the sentencing of the killer. They were also on hand for the launch of the Fellowship, which the family had given its blessing to. It was a bitter-sweet moment for a man whose tragic family circumstances have been thrust into the spotlight.

Fortunately, he drew strength from the presence of the inaugural Fellow, Dr Khadra Hasan Ali Salami, a senior paediatric haemato-oncology physician from Augusta Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem. Khadra will study for two years with Professor Polina Stepensky, a leading bone marrow transplantation specialist at Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem, Jerusalem.

Khadra will become the first woman in Palestine to graduate as a bone transplantation specialist, but her example and her determination to build the health capacity of Palestinian society will see more women opting to work in sub-specialties like this.

 As Saeed told Australians:

“You have shared our pain… please share our hopes that Aiia’s death so far from her home can have meaning beyond the tragedy. Please support Project Rozana.”


In 2019, Project Rozana USA introduced the Adopt-a-Driver program. The program was designed to offer religious institutions, clubs and community groups an opportunity to connect with Project Rozana’s mission. And thus financially support this essential service that provides Palestinian patients and their escort with free transport to hospitals in Israel from their homes in the West Bank.

Our partners on the ground, Road to Recovery (Israel) and the Hebron-based Palestinian NGO Green Land Society for Health Development in the West Bank provide us with profiles of drivers which are then assigned to the adopting entity.

Early adopters of this program include…

Jacobi Medical Society, a group of Jewish doctors in Maryland who meet regularly for educational programs and networking. They invited Kenneth Bob, chair of Project Rozana USA, to present to a meeting in early 2019 and as a result decided to join the program. They have raised enough money to adopt three drivers this year.

Huntington Jewish Center, a Conservative synagogue on Long Island. They invited Project Rozana to present a program this fall and as a result, the congregation’s Executive Committee decided to make the Adopt-a-Driver initiative an official synagogue project. Funds to adopt two drivers have already been raised.

The community of Falmouth (some members pictured below), MA organizes an annual interfaith Alternative Gift Market, a two-day weekend fundraising event on the Upper Cape. Each year they choose international organizations to highlight and Road to Recovery was one of the selected groups. The funds raised equal the amount needed to sponsor two drivers.

Following our last speaker’s tour in 2018, the Greater Washington DC chapter of Project Rozana was formed. It is an interfaith group that has a shared commitment to help those in society who are most in need.

According to Chapter coordinator Walter Ruby, the rationale behind the establishment of the group is to,

“Support the life-saving work of Project Rozana in Israel-Palestine and by volunteering to do community service work in inner-city Washington.”

To date they have raised enough money to sponsor an Israeli and a Palestinian driver. They also worked alongside local volunteers from the Masjid Muhammad DC (termed “the Nation’s Mosque’) in distributing fresh fruits, vegetables, canned and packaged food items in advance of Thanksgiving to residents of the Anacostia area, which has the highest poverty rate in Washington D.C. Pictured below.

Said Kenneth Bob, chair Project Rozana USA,

 “And there are other groups already involved with the Adopt a Driver program and we hope to see many more join in 2020.”


Here is an edited version of an article by the chair of Project Rozana Canada, Mark S. Anshan. It appeared in the Reform Movement’s Ten Minutes of Torah on 2 October, 2019.

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.

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.

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 NGOs including 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 role that Israel’s health care sector in Israel can play in creating strong and meaningful professional and personal relationships between Israelis and Palestinians. As the report 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.

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

Through these activities, Project Rozana provides us with an opportunity to contribute – in a meaningful way – to long-term peace in the region and enhance our personal engagement with Israel.

At ‘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 were the presenters.

Mark S. Anshan has held various positions in the Reform Movement, including Chair of ARZENU, the umbrella organization of Reform and Progressive Religious Zionists. He previously served in the Canadian foreign service at the Canadian UN Mission in New York and Stockholm, Sweden.


A €741,286 (US$820,246 – CAN$1,O87,200 – A$1,193,650) grant by the European Union (EU) will expand the work of the Binational School of Psychotherapy (BNSP). This is a unique training program based at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem. The award is a remarkable milestone for Project Rozana.

With funding from World Vision Australia (WVA), the BNSP was established in 2016 as a pilot program to train Palestinian and Israeli child psychologists in the latest strategies and techniques for dealing with children suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The first cohort comprised eight Israelis and eight Palestinians (six from the West Bank and two from Gaza).

The success of the pilot and the resulting professional and personal outcomes encouraged Project Rozana to submit an application for funding under the EU Peacebuiliding Initiative (EUPI). Hadassah Hospital was the lead, together with Hebron-based Green Land Society for Health Development.

The grant is an endorsement of Project Rozana’s approach to people-to-people relationship building. It also meets the EU’s priority for professionalized programs that offer measurable outcomes and scalable models.

Prof. Esti-Galili Weisstub. Hadassah Hospital opening the first session of the 2016 BNSP

The program has three objectives:

  • To contribute to achieving cross-border learning and cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian mental health professionals to enhance psychosocial healthcare to children and adolescents.
  • To improve the mental health of conflict-affected children and adolescents.
  • And to increase professional interaction between Israeli and Palestinian mental health professionals to promote co-existence, to build up mutual trust and enhance shared experiences.

Noting the successful outcomes of the pilot in increasing the professional interaction between the participants, Tim Costello AO, former CEO of WVA, said cross-border cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian mental health professionals is critical to the psychosocial health of children and adolescents.

He also said that the BNSP is contributing to women’s empowerment by ensuring that no less than 50% of students are women.

The EU grant will enable 60 Israeli and Palestinian psychotherapists working in the field of child and adolescent mental health to complete the course. It will also fund the BNSP to undertake curriculum development and accreditation by the World Health Organization (WHO).

According to Ron Finkel AM, Chair of Project Rozana International:

“The decision is an endorsement of our work, our values and the importance of building cross-border professional networks. It also recognises Project Rozana’s support for children from Israel and Palestine, who are dealing with many trauma-related issues resulting from the ongoing conflict. These include issues like bullying, domestic violence and sexual abuse.”

John Lyndon, Executive Director of Alliance for Middle East Peace (ALLMEP) welcomed the EU’s decision to support Project Rozana. He noted that the EUPI is now the largest pot of resources available to projects with Israeli and Palestinian cooperation at their core.

The BNSP is an important element of Project Rozana’s training programs, all of which will have the long term benefit of lessening Palestinian dependence on the Israeli healthcare system.

Dr Shafiq Masalha and BNSP pilot participants in 2016


Ruba Dwaik (pictured above with a child) is manager of volunteer drivers at Hebron-based NGO Green Land Society of Health Development. This critical service is helping Palestinians access Israeli hospitals, often for life-saving treatment. We sat down with Ruba to discuss her role and what the future holds.

PR: How difficult has it been to attract volunteer drivers?

Ruba: The real challenge is to reach potential volunteers. For this we need an intensive social media outreach, radio coverage and other forms of publicity. The next challenge is to motivate these potential volunteers.

To do this we try to involve them in one of our organised trips, so they are encouraged to participate. In some cases we find people who want to help but don’t have a car.

PR: What are the main reasons that people choose to become drivers?

Ruba: Some of them want to help when they have relatives who are sick. Some are related to children or patients who died and want to contribute to honour people who helped their family. There are some who feel for the first time that they are doing something valuable for society. We also have volunteers who are already taking a patient, and would like to take another one with them.

PR: Why do some people choose not to be drivers?

Ruba: Lack of backup in case of accident. Or concern that police will intervene if transporting someone in a private car. Some are concerned about the risk of complication with a vulnerable patient while transporting them. For others, especially young people, the difficulty they have of meeting early morning appointments.

There are some people who become emotionally involved and find it hard to deal with sick children. Another factor is an inability to meet fuel costs without subsidy.

PR: What do the drivers know about Project Rozana and its mission?

Ruba: Usually we inform our volunteers about Project Rozana. And we educate them about the key areas where it is involved in building bridges between Palestinians and Israelis through health. This is transporting patients, treating the patients in Israeli hospitals, and training Palestinian healthworkers.

PR: Has the experience changed how the drivers perceive Israel and Israelis?

Ruba: From our observation, yes this has happened. One of our drivers, Ahmad, was injured by the IDF. Since he learned about Project Rozana and joined the volunteer service, he is dealing well with the Israeli drivers who receive and return his patients at the checkpoint.

Also, we hold fun days for volunteers at Murad Tourist Resort near Bethlehem. Both Israeli and Palestinian volunteers meet and realise that the most important thing is to be partners in making children happy and smiling.

Below is a picture of me with a mother and child at a fun day.

PR: How many of the volunteer drivers have personal experience of the transport service, either as patients themselves or through family members who have used or are using the service?

Ruba: We have 131 volunteer drivers. 16 of them had been involved in the past with patients who passed away.

PR: So if currently the number of drivers is 131, looking forward, how many do you anticipate there will be in five years’ time?

Ruba: We hope that in five years we will have 1,000 volunteers.

PR: How has involvement with the transport service impacted on the reputation of Green Land?

Ruba: This service has put Green Land on the map of active NGOs in Hebron and the West Bank. We are working in a sensitive humanitarian field that is needed every day of the year. It has also expanded our public profile well beyond Palestine.

PR: What is your personal experience of working with Project Rozana?

Ruba: Being the coordinator and later, the manager of this project 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. So we feel we are one family who understands each other.

Also, 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!


Understanding the work of Project Rozana in the wider Canadian community has been an important, ongoing task of the Project Rozana Canada Board.

Early November 2019, it was represented at the 4th Biennial JSpaceCanada Conference held earlier this month in Toronto, by its Vice-Chair Karen Goldenberg and board member Jon Allen (pictured above).

JSpaceCanada is an all-volunteer, non-partisan, progressive Jewish organisation that acts as a centre for discussions of social justice, peace and civil rights in Israel and Canada. Its year-round programs include film screenings, panel discussions, parlour meetings, rallies, and briefings from leading commentators and government officials.

The theme of the conference was ‘From Indifference to Making a Difference’. The Project Rozana session was titled, ‘Tikkun Olam, Human Rights, Equity and Healing’, and was moderated by Jon Allen, a former Canadian Ambassador to Israel.

Karen and Jon were part of a panel that included community leaders…

  • Amal Elsana, Executive Director of International Community Action Network at McGill (ICAN) and professor of Social Work at McGill University.
  • Ifat Baron, Executive Director of Israeli NGO ITWorks.
  • Rabbi Arik Ascherman, Executive Director of Torat Tzedek-Torah of Justice.

Karen presented the history of Project Rozana and discussed the three main pillars of its work. She told the audience,

“After the presentations, many expressed an interest in getting involved and support for the concept of building bridges (between Israelis and Palestinians) through health. As this conference illustrated, support for activities to promote a shared society continues to grow. There is strong commitment and support to expand our reach and raising funds for our Treatment, Training and Transport projects.”



Rev Dr Karen Hamilton


Karen Hamilton has been appointed a board member of Project Rozana Canada.

She is a United Church of Canada minister and former General Secretary of The Canadian Council of Churches (CCC). The CCC is comprised of 26 member denominations that represent more than 85% of Christians in Canada.

Karen is an Old Testament scholar, works nationally and internationally in the area of Interfaith Dialogue and teaches an interfaith course at St. George’s Anglican College in Jerusalem.

She co-chaired the global Parliament of the World’s Religions in 2018, is very engaged in refugee support and is studying Arabic as her eighth language.

Her award-winning Old Testament book, ‘The Acceptable Year of The Lord’ was published in 2009. She is the recipient of a number of ecumenical and interfaith awards.

Most importantly, she is the thrilled grandma (Nonna) of Emmett and Gabriel.

Dr Maqsood Chaudhry


Dr Maqsood Chaudhry, DDS, a board member of Project Rozana USA.

He has been a practising dentist in Northern Virginia, where he owns and operates six dental clinics. He serves on the board of a non-profit free health clinic and has hosted dental health fairs at his own clinics for people without health insurance.

Dr Chaudhry contributes to and participates in many community and Interfaith activities in Northern Virginia and across the Greater Washington area.

As founder, trustee and past president of the McLean Islamic Center (MIC), he has arranged numerous Muslim-Jewish twinning activities, bringing together the members of MIC and Temple Rodef Shalom in Falls Church, VA. It has been widely-hailed as one of the most successful synagogue-mosque relationships anywhere in the United States. As a result, Dr Chaudhry and Rabbi Jeffery Saxe of Temple Rodef Shalom received the prestigious Interfaith Bridge Builders Award from the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington.

The General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia commended Dr Chaudhry for his work in interfaith relations.

Steven Lax


Steven Lax, a board member of Project Rozana USA.

​He was born and raised in New York. After graduating from Washington University in St Louis, he was one of the early members of Kibbutz Gezer, where he met and married his wife Susan. Steven served in the IDF as a combat soldier.

After returning to the US, Steven started a successful shoe distribution company. Later, along with his wife, he purchased the global parent company based in Israel, where he currently serves as the chairman of the board.

Steven is actively involved with J Street, serving on the Finance Committee and is also active in New Israel Fund. He is the proud father of three powerful daughters and four wonderful grandchildren. Steven divides his time between New York and Israel.

Diana Shehade


Diana Shehade is now the Jerusalem-based Project Rozana Israel Coordinator from September 2019.

Her responsibilities include…

  • Coordination and oversight of Project Rozana programs in Israel and the Palestinian Territories.
  • Management of visits to the region by Project Rozana guests and board members of Project Rozana.
  • Liaison with key agencies and strategic Project Rozana partners.
  • Engagement with potential new Project Rozana partners and evaluation of new programs.
  • And liaising with the Project Rozana Israel board.

Diana has a Master’s degree in English Literature and a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and English Literature and Linguistics from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Prior to joining Project Rozana, she was an English teacher and research assistant in the area of conflict research. She worked in the area of bereaved families in association with the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute.

Diana is fluent in Arabic, Hebrew, English and Romanian.


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