NEWSLETTER APRIL/MAY 2018
FINDING COMMON GROUND BETWEEN PEOPLE
“There is no easy solution to the problems that exist, but if there were more Project Rozanas we would at least take some steps to a better situation.”
After a whirlwind tour of Israel, education tsar David Gonski AC learned a few lessons in a field far removed from his own.
DAVID GONSKI AC.
The man who is credited with changing the face of Australia’s education system — via a funding model identified in the Gonski Report — saw first–hand what can be achieved in healthcare when two vastly different models are encouraged to coexist.
Although married to a paediatric dermatologist, David has spent the better part of his adult life involved in public service as a philanthropist, businessman and mentor. His passions and achievements are etched into contemporary Australian life, with the arts, education (including Indigenous education), and advocating for young people, high on his list of priorities. His visit to Israel in October, 2017 was ostensibly to join a trade mission organised by the Australia Israel Chamber of Commerce. The official itinerary provided an opportunity to learn about Israel’s ground–breaking work in cyber security and separately, to study how schools provide educational outcomes for disadvantaged students.
The visit happened to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Beersheba, when Australia’s Fourth Light Horse Brigade broke through the Turkish defences to capture the main town in what is now Israel’s Negev. It enabled British forces to break the Ottoman line near Gaza.
Interestingly, Australia’s role in helping to change the face of Middle Eastern geopolitics, has surfaced a century later in the work of Project Rozana. The organisation, founded by Hadassah Australia in 2013, is now a global health-focused initiative with affiliates in the United States, Canada, Israel and the Palestinian Territories.
With its emphasis on bilateral cooperation in health, it is creating new pathways to better understanding between communities which until now has largely stalled at the political level.
It was at the urging of his wife, Dr Orli Wargon, that David and a small group of mission participants with medical training attended meetings with Israelis involved in the medical field.
“When I heard that Project Rozana was to be the subject of one of the meetings, I suggested that our entire group attend,” David said. “I was aware of Project Rozana through Ron Finkel, and I felt it would be beneficial to meet some of the doctors at Hadassah Hospital who were involved in the original case that led to the creation of this important project.”
Equity and fairness, two key values embedded in David’s seminal 2011 education report, are part of Project Rozana’s DNA.
“There were many things that appealed to me about Project Rozana,” David said. “Firstly, I loved the fact that Israel is willing to assist people living in Gaza and the West Bank who need the benefit of superb medical knowledge and experience that is readily available in Israel. “I like the fact that this was permitted by both sides.”
He says no-one could fail to appreciate the benefits available with Project Rozana for very young children in need of assistance.
“The concept of medical practitioners of all faiths and backgrounds working together for a common good was a wonderful thing to observe. There are challenges, of course, including permit restrictions and language barriers, but with goodwill these can be compensated for or overcome.”
David was also pleasantly surprised to learn that Australia is playing its part in the project. One of the Palestinian doctors that David met at Hadassah also completed part of his training at an Australian hospital.
“We were also very inspired by how the doctors we met spoke as a team and that there didn’t seem to be any acrimony despite the fact that not all came from the Israel side.”
According to David, the “fundamental lesson” that was learned by the mission participants was that “we all have a responsibility to look after each other. Working together no matter how many differences we may have is a better way of achieving good health and indeed happiness.”
“I am very strong on the fact that professionals working together fora common cause can often bridge differences and make humans focus on a better cause than disputing each other’s rights,” he said. “Project Rozana does just that and I think all those who have been involved should be very proud.”
It will take time for the Palestinian healthcare system to achieve equity with Israel, but Project Rozana is proving to be a determined and effective partner by funding programs and advocating for people of goodwill to join its initiative.
For David, it’s an important lesson in the role that health can play in bringing out the best in people.