Building better understanding between Israelis and Palestinians through health


It’s inconceivable that a vintner would promote his wine without first having tasted it. And no responsible hotelier would allow front-of-house staff to engage with guests without knowing what the rooms are like.

So when the national committee of Hadassah Australia was invited to visit Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem in May 2017, it seemed like a responsible and timely thing to do.

I’ve been to Hadassah a number of times over the years. But I’ve never ‘looked’ at it with the forensic eye needed for someone who is meant to articulate its work and broader message to the Australian community.

I suspect some of my fellow members have never been or if they have, found themselves in a similar situation to me.

Some may think I’m overcomplicating the visit to a major hospital. After all, aren’t all hospitals more or less the same? In one sense, that’s true. Hadassah, like Rambam in Haifa and Tel HaShomer in Ramat Gan, offers a range of services that aren’t all that different to services offered at the Alfred in Melbourne, the Liverpool Hospital in Sydney or the Royal Perth Hospital.

All are world-first in the standard of services offered and commitment to patient care. There are differences, of course, but where Hadassah is demonstrably different is in its community outreach. It’s in that engagement with people who may never set foot inside its precinct in Jerusalem that, frankly, gives me a rush of blood.

Here are some examples.

There are many children in Sderot, the former development town in the western Negev that abuts Gaza, who have received life-saving therapeutic support after surviving rocket attacks. In some cases, the attending therapists were seconded from the Jerusalem Crisis Intervention Center, an important, unique and life-saving Hadassah service.

Similarly, a paediatrician working in a Bedouin community near Be’er Sheva or a small community in Israel’s north may well have ‘graduated’ from the Goshen Project, which is a signature program of Hadassah that is changing the way paediatric care is delivered in Israel.

An increasing number of critically-ill Palestinian children in the West Bank and Gaza are benefitting from the training that Palestinian health workers are receiving at Hadassah. Some of those same children are also referred to Hadassah as part of an ongoing relationship with the Palestinian Authority.

Further afield, some of Hadassah’s famed medical clowns have travelled with Israel’s emergency medical response teams to crisis zones like Haiti and Nepal.

Significantly, all of the examples I’ve outlined have Australian fingerprints all over them. That’s right. We, you and me, are responsible for some game-changing work in Israel, in the Palestinian Territories and in exotic places like Haiti and Nepal.

Collectively, our dollars and our deep-seated love for finding pathways to a better world are moving us forward, slowly it must be said, to a time when the average Israeli and Palestinian will break bread together rather than each other’s heads.

It’s unlikely to happen in our lifetime. We may wish it otherwise, but today we are even further apart than we were 12 months ago, and arguably even further than we were five years before that. Which is a reason why…

  1. Projects like the Jerusalem Crisis Intervention Center, Goshen, Project Rozana and the Medical Clown program are lifelines that we must support if we are to have any hope of building more resilient communication channels between people.
  2. Members of Hadassah Australia’s national committee must make the effort to visit this iconic hospital so that you are better represented as a result.

Michael Krape, Project Rozana Australia board member