EDITORIAL by Ron Finkel AM

Ron Finkel AM, Chair, Project Rozana International

After seven years of building our reputation through action and outcome, Project Rozana has achieved major milestones in Australia, Israel and Palestine.

In the last year, we have reached a point that only a short time ago seemed an improbable dream.

We have not only gained the trust of three governments, but positioned ourselves to fulfil our Mission of building bridges between Israelis and Palestinians through the agency of healthcare.

In each case our relationship is unique, but in quantum, it shows that our quiet and determined diplomacy has borne fruit. The beneficiaries are predominantly vulnerable Palestinian children. Beyond them is an ever-widening circle of family and community, all impacted by our work.

On the outer edges, but no less significant, are the Israeli facilitators who are critical to the wellbeing of these children. These include healthcare workers in the major Israeli hospitals who lovingly treat the children, and educators who are committed to upskilling Palestinian doctors, nurses and therapists to build Palestinian health capacity. We also value the volunteer drivers in Israel and Palestine who ensure that children are safely transported to and from the hospitals.

Since 2013 we have carefully chartered a course that ultimately convinced the three governments that we were strategic in our approach, transparent and non-partisan in our activities, and determined in our delivery.

Allow me to provide a snapshot of what led to the current situation.

In mid-2020, with the COVID-19 pandemic raging out of control, it became increasingly clear that smaller, under-resourced communities would find it increasingly difficult to access needed equipment for their hospitals. Despite the bonhomie of the larger countries, in reality it was a dog-eat-dog experience.

It was often the highest bidder who was able to secure life-saving equipment, with little regard for the impact that it might cause to countries whose need was more desperate than theirs.

Undeterred, Project Rozana mounted a global appeal to provide hard-to-source ICU-enabled ventilators for Palestinian hospitals. We effectively moved mountains to find these ventilator packages and secure them despite frenzied bidding by well-resourced countries.

There was also an urgency to ship them in a time-critical fashion to assist the Palestinian Authority (PA) prepare its hospitals for the expected explosion in COVID-19 cases.

There were many heroes during these fraught months. Among them was the Australian Government which worked closely with us to ensure that equipment held in its storage would be released. We agreed to replace these units once our orders with the manufacturer were filled.

Another hero was the Government of Israel. They were fully briefed and agreed to ensure the equipment reached Ramallah as soon as possible after it landed in Israel. They were already invested in supporting the Palestinian health system, so we were encouraged by their commitment.

As a result we earned the trust and admiration of the PA. We have maintained a close relationship with their senior officials ever since, even dedicating our Regional Director, Dr Raid Mansour, as our point person. Raid is a man of great integrity who has earned the confidence of all the key players in the region.

Together with Raid, Project Rozana Israel’s Chair Doron Levinson and Executive Director Ronit Zimmer, maintain close relations with senior PA figures. Without this mutual trust it would be extremely difficult to deliver on our Mission (see story this issue).

These relationships have been noted in Australia.

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade invited Project Rozana to apply for NGO Accreditation and entry into the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (see story this issue). This would not have been possible without evidence of our ability to engage with and add value to the Palestinian community.

We have walked a great distance since we started out as an idea that was strong on promise. We are emboldened to keep walking, knowing that we are playing a small but important part in bridging the divide between Israelis and Palestinians through the agency of health.