Guest Blog

Breaking Boundaries and Building Bridges in the Middle East

by Raffaella Tonani

I am an international student from Peru studying in NY. When I was in Peru, I volunteered for Project Home (Proyecto Hogar). This is a national organization that builds houses in extremely poor areas. However, I have realized that not being there, is not the only way to make a change.

Project Rozana:

In a PR Campaigns class at Hofstra University, I learned about a non-profit organization, called Project Rozana. This group builds bridges between Israelis and Palestinians through healthcare.

The organization works with volunteer Palestinian drivers who drive through the occupied Palestinian territories to the security checkpoints. These drivers pick up families in need of medical care, take them to the check point then an Israeli driver takes them from the checkpoint to the Israeli hospital. 

Project Rozana also trains Palestinian doctors in Israeli hospitals. Palestinian doctors use this knowledge to better its own community’s healthcare system.

Background on Healthcare in the Middle East

Interestingly, all Israeli citizens are entitled to basic health care as a fundamental right. However, Israelis can increase their medical coverage by also purchasing private health insurance. 

Palestinians who can not receive the proper health care in their hospitals can apply for permission to the Palestinian Ministry of Health for a referral to an Israeli hospitals. Due to shortages on medicine, medical equipment’ and power shortages, Palestinians in Gaza have more serious issues in this regard. Patients can go with one person to Israel. 

According to World Health Organization, more than 2,500 patients who applied crossed the Erez Border in November 2018. Interestingly, both governments work together in this regard.

Background on Project Rozana

Project Rozana is centered in Israel. However, an Australian entrepreneur formed the organization. Today, there are offices in Canada and the USA.

Ken Bob, a local Long Islander, runs the US arm of the organization. He travels around the country to spread awareness about Israeli-Palestinian co-existence through healthcare. Speaking at conferences, panels and social groups, Ken Bob tries to both recruit volunteers and donors. 

Something You Just Don’t Hear…

It is impressive the impact an international team work can have. In 2018, almost 2,000 Road to Recovery (RTR) volunteer drivers drove 800,000 miles. They took critically-ill Palestinian children to Israeli hospitals from Gaza and the West Bank’s checkpoints. There was no fee to the children or their families for transportation or medical services.

Here are some successful stories:

Twelve-year-old Wassim, and his father crossed Erez checkpoint multiple times to go to Sheba Hospital in Tel Aviv. Wassim had a severe kidney disease. In Gaza, a taxi to the checkpoint cost 200 Shekels. That is equivalent to US$55 which took his dad five days of work to earn. Former Israeli State Attorney, Eran Shandar, is one of 2000 Road to Recovery volunteer drivers. For approximately three years, he relieved Wassim’s father financial worry by driving the family from the checkpoint to hospital.

Fifteen-year-old Palestinian girl Asma, from the West Bank, had a rare genotype androgen insensitivity syndrome. She had male genetics and reproductive organs. Financial costs aside, had the case become public, the family could go through shaming and isolation from the Palestinian community. The Hadassah Hospital formed a multidisciplinary Disorder of Sexual Differentiation (DSD) team for her case. This included a pediatrician urologist, a gynecologist, a genetic specialist and more. Their suggestion: surgical intervention. Project Rozana funded the surgery, which cost $5,000.

Wouldn’t you go the extra mile for your child? 

If you’re a parent, you know that you would go miles for your children. You only hear bad news that comes out in this area. But, this story shows how complete strangers from opposite sides, help each other.

For more about Project Rozana, go to\

Raffaella Tonani is an international student at Hofstra University studying public relations.
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