Photo – Handshake at an Israeli-Palestinian Crossing Checkpoint
When I was in Israel last month, I learned of a non-profit organization that is doing extraordinary transformative work called “Road to Recovery –RtR.” RtR’s sole aim is to provide free-of-charge transportation to Palestinians who need medical treatment in Israel.
Every day, RtR Israeli Jewish volunteers pick up West Bank Palestinian patients from various crossing points between Israel and the areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority, drive them in their private cars to hospitals in Israel, and then return these patients back to the checkpoints to be picked up on the Palestinian side by their relatives and friends.
Begun in 2010, in the past seven years, 3,280 Palestinian patients have been driven to Israeli hospitals by 3,300 Israeli Jewish volunteers in 43,300 patient trips covering 4.38 million miles in 50,000 hours of volunteerism.
The idea for this project grew out of tragedy.
Yuval Roth (60) lost his brother Udi to a Hamas terrorist in 1993 when Udi was returning home from reserve service in Gaza, then controlled by Israel.
Yuval said: “I lost a brother but not my head, and didn’t want revenge. Yes, I was angry, but my anger was directed not at the terrorists that killed my brother but at our leaders, that for generations were unable to solve the conflict.” (see Tablet Magazine – “Hamas Murdered Yuval Roth’s Brother. Now He Helps Sick Palestinians” by Tal Miller and Yoav Sivan, http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/192659/yuval-roth-derech-hachlama). Tablet reports:
Roth joined a pro-peace Israeli-Palestinian organization of families who lost a family member in the conflict called “The Parents Circle Families Forum.” He met Mohamed Kabah, a Palestinian from the village Yaabez near Jenin who also lost a brother. Kabah approached Roth with an unlikely request. He had a sick brother in medical care in Haifa who couldn’t get to the hospital. “So I drove him thinking this was no different from what I’d do for a neighbor in Pardes Hanna. Then this friend referred another family from his village who needed help to reach Hadassah Hospital…” One referral followed another, and soon there was too much traffic for one person to handle. “So, I reached out to my circles of friends.”
Mohamed Kabah told Tablet: “Yuval and I met 15 years ago…We both lost brothers in war and shared the conviction that we must do something to bring people closer together…We met with leaders of the PA, and we kept them informed…I think our contribution to peace is greater than that of many leaders. Today, there’s no Palestinian in the Territories who isn’t grateful to Yuval. This organization made us heroes. Still, many say that it’d be too hard to achieve peace. But this is our way to say that the pain of peace is better than the pain of war.”
Yuval Roth said: “The Israeli public doesn’t understand how deep is the Palestinian will for peace. It’s not the reasonable minority but the reasonable majority. The majority of the Palestinian public wants a two-state solution and supports the nonviolent path of Abu Mazen. It will take time for the Israeli public to process this picture, but I have no doubt that is the reality. And although I don’t think Netanyahu has the will to and courage for peace, I believe some processes are greater than any person.”
Yuval acknowledges that the image of Israelis in Palestinian eyes is negative and frightening just as the image of Palestinians in Israeli eyes is rejectionist and unyielding. Palestinians see all Israelis as settlers and soldiers with weapons, just as Israelis see Palestinians as unwilling to compromise. For peace to come both sides must change and evolve.
Yuval said: “We offer a different horizon and help change consciousness…I don’t know to what extent our actions help bring peace but I do know that in the chaos, this is the biggest small step I can make.”
See Road to Recovery website at http://www.roadtorecovery.org.il/
See three videos at https://projectrozana.org/video/ entitled “Road to Recovery,” “Zubin Mehta,” and “Transportation.”