ISRAELI AND PALESTINIAN HEALTHCARE VOLUNTEERS WIN PEACE PRIZE
Pictured (l-r): Steven Lax, Project Rozana USA board member; Naeem Al-Baeda, Road to Recovery, Victor Goldberg, Institute of International Education; Yuval Roth, Road to Recovery; Ron Finkel, President, Project Rozana International and Chair, Project Rozana Australia.
Project Rozana USA (PRUSA) has taken its support for life-saving transport service Road to Recovery to the next level. Two key members of the volunteer-based organization received the Institute of International Education’s (IIE) annual Victor J. Goldberg Prize for Peace in the Middle East, following their nomination by PRUSA.
The award is valued at $10,000 and was first presented in 2005.
Established in 2010 by Israeli Yuval Roth, Road to Recovery is an organization dedicated to providing free transport for mainly Palestinian children from checkpoints with the West Bank and Gaza to hospitals in Israel, often for complex medical conditions that cannot be treated in the Palestinian Territories. Volunteer drivers collect the young patients and their carer from the checkpoints and return them after the hospital appointment.
Nominated with Yuval was Palestinian Naeem Al-Baeda, who for seven years has been involved with coordinating patient transfers at the checkpoints to ensure a smooth process.
Around 2,000 Israelis volunteer for the service. While in the West Bank, where a parallel service was initiated a little over 12 months ago, the number of volunteers is approaching 100. In 2018, the total distance travelled by the volunteers was 1,277,000 km, involving more than 20,000 trips, the majority of patients being children.
Kenneth Bob, Chair of Project Rozana USA, says,
“Yuval and Naeem represent the best of humanity and within their selfless actions we can see how the future can evolve for these two communities. The Victor J. Goldberg Prize is a fitting tribute to their commitment. I am extremely proud that Project Rozana is able to play its part in spreading the message that is so eloquently delivered every day in Israel and Palestine.”
The award ceremony was held at America House in Jerusalem on 12 June. Among those present was Victor J. Goldberg; Chris Hodges, Public Affairs Officer at the Palestinian Affairs Unit of the US Embassy; Allan Goodman, President & CEO of the IIE; and representatives of Project Rozana.
Victor Goldberg stated that the award has become a symbol of the power of international education to bring people together to solve shared problems. He said,
“In this 15th anniversary year, I am especially pleased to present the prize to Yuval Roth and Naeem Al-Baeda for their leadership of Road to Recovery. The prize rewards their courage and commitment to providing access to humanitarian medical care across borders, working together to overcome religious, cultural, ethnic and political issues which divide the region.”
In accepting the award, Yuval Roth spoke about the death of his brother at the hands of a Hamas terrorist and how it influenced his decision to create a service dedicated to Palestinians in need of the superior health care available in Israel.
Yuval told the audience,
“I realized that beyond the humanitarian aid, there is an opportunity for an unmediated encounter between us and our neighbors. Such a meeting at the people-to-people level, regardless of religion or nationality, breaks down barriers and stigmas. And it made sense to institutionalize it. Every [Road to Recovery] trip is an opportunity to make a ‘small hour of peace’ and we make dozens of ‘small peaces’ every day.”
It was also a chance meeting with Naeem that helped grow awareness to and support for Road to Recovery in the West Bank. Yuval recalled,
“Eight years ago, Naeem asked me to transport a relative from his home in the West Bank to hospital in Israel. He soon found himself serving as an address for patients in the West Bank who needed a similar service. Naeem had experienced all the difficulties of the occupation, and despite this he speaks of nonviolent resistance and an optimistic horizon that would put an end to his suffering and that of his people. I found a true partner for this path, with a huge heart, and compassion.”
Underscoring the egalitarian nature of Road to Recovery, Mr Bob confirmed that the Israeli volunteers come from every part of the country and from every political persuasion and religious belief. He said,
“Uniting them is a shared belief that bridging the gaps in healthcare can sow the seeds of co-existence.
“This is the cornerstone of Project Rozana, which was established in 2013 in order to leverage Israel’s superior healthcare for the benefit of Palestinian society. Today, the organization is active in the US, Canada, Australia, Israel and the West Bank.
“In addition to our support for Road to Recovery, we also fund the training of Palestinian health workers in Israel in order for them to return and build the health capacity of Palestinian society, particularly in needed specialties like peritoneal dialysis and pediatric oncology.
“Our third pillar is to treat children from the West Bank and Gaza dealing with highly-complex medical conditions for which there are limited treatment options in Palestine.”
Mr Bob added that health remains the only area of civil society where Israelis and Palestinians meet on equal terms and in mutual respect.
“We passionately believe that building bridges to better understanding between Palestinians and Israelis is possible through health. Clearly, that is something with which the trustees of the Institute of International Education agree.”
For More Information contact Miki Golod, (+1) 347-236-1194 or firstname.lastname@example.org