Building understanding between Israelis and Palestinians through health




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.