ARE WE REALLY SO FAR APART?
To understand the power and purpose of Project Rozana, you only need to wander in to any major hospital in Israel. The first thing you notice is the remarkable mix of people – patients, families and practitioners – the mosaic of life in Israel.
There are Israelis and Palestinians, Arabs and Europeans, Jews, Christians and Muslims, Orthodox and secular. For the most part they are readily identifiable and coexist easily. But beyond the public spaces, there are stories from the wards that reveal more about the human condition than the politically-charged environment of Middle Eastern politics usually allows.
Fertile ground for Project Rozana, where people-to-people relationships are more focused and situations more fraught than the media reports. Where parents invest emotional energy in their children and loved ones.
Take this story of two couples and their children on similar journeys. It began earlier this year in the Pediatric Gastroenterology Unit at Hadassah Hospital’s Mount Scopus campus. The children both suffer from a rare disease, and require special and expensive food-based medicine. They are pictured below with consultant, Professor Michael Wilshansky.
One couple hails from an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood in Jerusalem, while the other couple lives in Gaza. Both share the same concern for their tiny loved one hospitalized for treatment and follow-up, at the hospital.
The first mother, who we will call ‘Dafna’, tells us that her daughter is being treated by Professor Michael Wilshansky, the unit’s director, and Dr Peri-Nicole Milman, an expert in pediatric gastroenterology.
She said, in Hebrew,
“We are in the best of hands. Prof Wilshansky diagnosed the rare disease our child suffers from, by her symptoms, even before the test results arrived. His knowledge and understanding are astonishing, as is his compassion and his ability to accompany families in the long process.”
Dafna says that the doctor has been available to them for many months, day and night.
“Even when he travelled abroad, he asked us to be in touch by phone for every need, caring for our daughter 24 hours a day. As for Dr Milman, she has a heart of gold. Unassumingly, she performs the most complex tests with professionalism and gentleness. We owe this team so much.”
Close by is a baby of a similar age, whose parents have travelled from Gaza to Hadassah for treatment. Both babies suffer from a syndrome so rare there are only 30 children in the world who are known to have it.
During the hospitalization, Dafna and her husband met the parents of the other baby who is also fed by the unique and expensive medicine.
“This medicine is saving the lives of our babies. When we heard that the parents from Gaza had trouble paying for it, we decided to do an act of benevolence and help them get it. We enrolled everyone we know for this effort, friends and acquaintance. Soon the special food medicine drug arrived and they were very excited and happy. It’s the only thing their daughter can eat.”
The parents from Gaza do not conceal their excitement. Speaking in Arabic, the mother said,
“Thanks to these generous people, our daughter was given life-saving medication. She is now improving and eating these food capsules. We do not take it for granted. We thank them every day and every minute. It is an act of kindness that we will never forget.”
“As far as we’re concerned, a sick baby is like any other baby, no matter where it comes from and what its nationality is. We helped with all our heart. When we needed this special remedy, there were those who got it for us and now we have passed the mitzvah on.”
Prof Wilshansky explains that the syndrome affecting the two babies does not allow the intestine to function properly in digesting any other type of food. He says matter-of-factly, despite the obvious consequences of his words,
“This is the only food that exists for them. It is very expensive, and very complicated to purchase for those who do not have medical insurance.”
Ron Finkel AM, Chair of Project Rozana International, says that Project Rozana actively seeks out situations like these to fund.
“We can’t fund every deserving case, but as we expand our supporter base we will help more Palestinian families to access life-saving treatment in Israel. And we will assist more Palestinian practitioners to learn from their Israeli peers for treatment in Palestinian hospitals and clinics.
“It takes a case like this to tell a story of hope, courage and shared commitment. The further we can shift from megaphone diplomacy to the quiet diplomacy of the back fence, the closer we will come to realizing a paradigm shift in relations between people.”