NEWSLETTER APRIL/MAY 2018
BRIDGE-BUILDING ACROSS BORDERS
JON ALLEN IS DIPLOMAT IN RESIDENCE, FULBRIGHT CANADA AND A FELLOW OF THE MUNK SCHOOL OF GLOBAL AFFAIRS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO.
Very few people can cross borders with impunity, especially when those borders separate the wary, if not the warring, from one another.
Jon Allen is someone who has traversed these borders — both physical and metaphoric — in his capacity as one of Canada’s most lauded diplomats. Among his various postings, he spent four years as his country’s ambassador to Israel. Eight years after leaving that post, he has found a new role that allows him to continue and deepen his relationship with Israelis and Palestinians.
A relationship, he says, which has been one of the most fulfilling, if fraught, of his time in public service.
Ambassador Allen is a Board member of Project Rozana Canada. The organisation is a member of Project Rozana International, which includes affiliates in the US, Israel, the Palestinian Territories and Australia, where it was established in 2013.
Project Rozana’s stated mission is to build better understanding between Israelis and Palestinians through health.
“I served as Canada’s Amb.assador in Israel at a time when peace was somewhat more possible than it is now,” he says.
“The situation has deteriorated since and Project Rozana offered me an opportunity to participate in an initiative that creates both short to medium-term, health-related benefits while at the same time laying the groundwork for the kind of people-to-people activities that can help achieve peace in the future.”
Amb. Allen acknowledges that there have been and continue to be many successful people-centred initiatives in the Israeli-Palestinian space. He says they’re successful in the sense that they demonstrate how two peoples sharing disputed land can work, learn and create together.
“Project Rozana’s initiatives have achieved ongoing and positive results in the areas of transportation, training and treatment, and that vital mix is unique among the NGOs that are active there.”
THE FOUNDER OF ROAD TO RECOVERY, YUVAL ROTH (LEFT) AND DIRECTOR, ELI SAHAR.
THE EREZ CROSSING IS LOCATED AT THE NORTHERN END OF THE GAZA STRIP
He referred to Road to Recovery, which offers a free service provided by volunteer drivers who transport Palestinian patients and their caregivers from the West Bank and Gaza border crossings to hospitals in Israel.
“The cost of commercial transport is beyond the reach of many Palestinian families,” he says. “This can be particularly onerous when a patient requires frequent hospital visits. Project Rozana supports this service, which has a side but important benefit of allowing people to engage with the ‘other’ in a non-hostile environment.”In terms of training, Project Rozana raised funds to establish the first ever Binational School of Psychotherapy, which is focused on helping Israeli and Palestinian therapists assist young people to deal with the effects of post–traumatic stress (PTSD). The school was established at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem in October 2016 with a donation of US$300,000 from World Vision Australia.“Our most recent project is to fund medical navigator teams in Israeli hospitals who will provide social, psychological and translation assistance to Palestinian patients and their caregivers,” Amb. Allen says.
Israel has a superior healthcare system, acknowledged to be among the best in the world. The Palestinian political and communal elite have been keen to study it and implement those learnings for the benefit of their community. Project Rozana is playing a role through its clinical advisory committee by creating initiatives to fill the gaps, in order for Palestinian society to become self reliant in the delivery of healthcare.
“That said, the current policy of non-normalization that is practised at certain universities in the West Bank and Gaza demonstrates that initiatives like Project Rozana don’t operate in a vacuum,” he says. “The absence of any political progress can have a negative impact on the work of NGOs like ours.” During his recent visit to Israel, his first as a Project Rozana board member, Amb. Allen and his wife, Clara Hirsch, visited hospitals in Israel and in the Palestinian Territories and “witnessed the total commitment of the medical staffs in all the hospitals to their patients. At all but An–Naja University Hospital, there was a keen interest in building relationships between Israeli and Palestinian medical staff and their common commitment to do what was necessary to treat patients irrespective of their nationalities.
“We were struck by how many Palestinian children are being treated in the Israeli hospitals. We also were impressed with what the Palestinian institutions were able to accomplish despite having far fewer resources.”
Amb. Allen believes he can use his previous and current connections to government officials to convince the Canadian Government to partner with Project Rozana.
“I also hope to use my experience in the region and skills learned as a diplomat to help convince potential donors of the importance of Project Rozana’s work,” he says. “This is not the time to give up on efforts to create better health outcomes, and to encourage greater knowledge and mutual respect in the region.”