WAR AND THE CHILDREN | PROJECT ROZANA AUSTRALIA

WAR AND THE CHILDREN

Are we right to help children affected by war, even if their parents are the avowed enemies of Israel? This is the question that we were required to ask following our 2014 campaign by Hadassah Australia and St John’s Australia to raise funds for Project Rozana.

Criticism had been levelled at a campaign to raise funds in Australia – from both the Jewish and non-Jewish communities – to provide treatment at two of Jerusalem’s leading medical institutes, Hadassah Hospital and St John Eye Hospital.

If it was within my power to compress history, I would jump at the opportunity to introduce those who criticise this wonderful initiative to Henrietta Szold, the founder of Hadassah.

What is interesting is that Henrietta was arguably more enlightened when it comes to social equality and human rights than these modern-day critics.

In 1909 she took a trip to then-Palestine, where an already present commitment to Zionism flourished, turning into a passion. Upon returning, Szold continued her path of public service, beginning with the formation of an organization she christened Hadassah.

Through Hadassah, Szold helped improve healthcare in Palestine; a proponent of pluralism Szold convinced supporters that Hadassah’s many medical services should be open to all, not just the Jewish community. She imposed no caveat, or set conditions that would discriminate against any person who required Hadassah’s intervention. It is a policy that has not only informed Hadassah since, but every major hospital and healthcare institute in Israel.

It is a policy that has become a pillar on which the State of Israel has been built. It is fundamental to Israel’s democracy and it remains a principle that, to a very large degree, distinguishes Israel from its neighbours.

It may be ironic and arguably simplistic, but Israel has fought many wars in order to have the right to safeguard its core values of equity and social justice including the capacity to medically treat its enemies should they require it.

To prove the point, in November 2013 the granddaughter of Hamas Prime Minister, Ismail Haniyeh, was admitted to Schneider Children’s Medical Center in Petah Tikva in a serious condition after being diagnosed with an acute infection of the digestive tract. She later returned to Gaza.

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Hadassah Australia’s joint venture with St John Ambulance Australia to provide world-class medical treatment to injured children from Gaza is not a departure from Hadassah or Israel’s normal code of practice, but ‘more of the same’.

This is certainly true of Hadassah globally and Hadassah Australia in particular. A case in point is Project Rozana, a trailblazing initiative pioneered in 2012 by our organisation, and which has the blessing of the Palestinian Authority and its Minister for Health as well as Israel’s medical and political establishment.

Today, the lives of critically ill Palestinian children from the West Bank and Gaza are being saved by medical specialists at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, thanks to funding from Australians – including Australian Jews. Their financial support is also providing training for Palestinian doctors and therapists at Hadassah and other hospitals, who will return to their communities to build the healthcare capacity of the Palestinian people.

Hadassah Australia is proud to partner with World Vision Australia, and Australian Jewry can take comfort from the fact that they are directly involved in saving lives and changing opinions.

Henrietta Szold would not be fazed in the slightest that a Jewish organisation is fundraising with Christian organisations to treat Muslim children from Gaza and the West Bank in Israel.

These two examples are not driven by hasbara, public diplomacy or ‘spin’. While they have the potential to open the hearts and minds of those children and their families to the human face of Israel, this is a by-product of an embedded philosophy that can trace its roots back to the turn of last century. It may not have moved Ismail Haniyeh, but perhaps others less politicized in the Palestinian community might start to question the stereotypes about Jews and Israel that Hamas feeds its people on a daily basis.

I encourage those who hold similar views about ‘them and us’ to hear from Dr Qanta Ahmed, a respected medical specialist, commentator and author who is a proud Muslim and an outspoken advocate of Israel. Dr Ahmed will be in Australia later this month as a guest of Hadassah Australia.

To supporters of the BDS movement and those who are unashamedly anti-Semitic, Dr Ahmed’s views are shocking and confronting. To the proponents of Israel’s egalitarian approach to healthcare, her views are informed and balanced.

It is in that egalitarian spirit that defines modern Israel that St John Australia and Hadassah Australia have joined to make a difference; precisely because we can.

Hadassah Australia’s joint venture with St John Ambulance Australia to provide world-class medical treatment to injured children from Gaza is not a departure from Hadassah or Israel’s normal code of practice, but ‘more of the same’.

This is certainly true of Hadassah globally and Hadassah Australia in particular. A case in point is Project Rozana, a trailblazing initiative pioneered in 2012 by our organisation, and which has the blessing of the Palestinian Authority and its Minister for Health as well as Israel’s medical and political establishment.

Today, the lives of critically ill Palestinian children from the West Bank and Gaza are being saved by medical specialists at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, thanks to funding from Australians – including Australian Jews. Their financial support is also providing training for Palestinian doctors and therapists at Hadassah and other hospitals, who will return to their communities to build the healthcare capacity of the Palestinian people.

Hadassah Australia is proud to partner with World Vision Australia, and Australian Jewry can take comfort from the fact that they are directly involved in saving lives and changing opinions.

Henrietta Szold would not be fazed in the slightest that a Jewish organisation is fundraising with Christian organisations to treat Muslim children from Gaza and the West Bank in Israel.

These two examples are not driven by hasbara, public diplomacy or ‘spin’. While they have the potential to open the hearts and minds of those children and their families to the human face of Israel, this is a by-product of an embedded philosophy that can trace its roots back to the turn of last century. It may not have moved Ismail Haniyeh, but perhaps others less politicized in the Palestinian community might start to question the stereotypes about Jews and Israel that Hamas feeds its people on a daily basis.

I encourage those who hold similar views about ‘them and us’ to hear from Dr Qanta Ahmed, a respected medical specialist, commentator and author who is a proud Muslim and an outspoken advocate of Israel. Dr Ahmed will be in Australia later this month as a guest of Hadassah Australia.

To supporters of the BDS movement and those who are unashamedly anti-Semitic, Dr Ahmed’s views are shocking and confronting. To the proponents of Israel’s egalitarian approach to healthcare, her views are informed and balanced.

It is in that egalitarian spirit that defines modern Israel that St John Australia and Hadassah Australia have joined to make a difference; precisely because we can.

Ron Finkel