There's change in the air --
some light in the Holy Land.
This January, 2005 it is Palestinian and Israeli health care professionals providing a ray of hope.
It was only July 14, 2002 when
The Jerusalem Post reporter, Judy Siegel-Itzkovich, was lamenting how the
once-open cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian health care professionals
were suffering divorce..
The Post announced the definitive book on the subject -- "SEPARATE AND COOPERATE, COOPERATE AND SEPARATE: The Disengagement of the Palestine Health Care System from Israel and its Emergence as an Independent System." It's described at:
Here is the irony.
In the midst of violence and hopelessness, the sophisticated 353 page book was an elegant model of cooperation championed by editors Rafiq Husseini and Tamara Barnea ( Barnea@jdc.org.il ) and their Palestinian and Israeli colleagues.
The Post's 2002 banner reflected the Arab and Jewish authors, saying "Palestinian and Israeli health systems used to cooperate -- and may again someday."
The special role played by women and men health professionals in promoting deep-rooted relationships and cooperation in both conflict and post-conflict eras, described by Barnea and Husseini, is today coming back to life.
phoenix is rising from ashes.
BRIDGES is a new health journal being launched by Israeli and Palestinian health professionals.
In the spirit of Dialogue, we hear from both peoples rather equally, with portions in Hebrew, Arabic, and English.
It's all online and beautiful, at http://healthinforum.net/files/who/bridges.pdf .
Happily, the same Judy Siegel-Itzkovich proudly reports on it, this time for BMJ, the former British Medical Journal.
Bridges, bridges, more bridges -- good medicine.
Consider building one where you live, 'though two or more are better.
Published by BMJ (formerly British Medical Journal)
-- Saturday, 01 January 2005
On the Web at http://bmj.bmjjournals.com/cgi/content/full/330/7481/10-d?etoc&eaf
Jerusalem Judy Siegel-Itzkovich
Coinciding with a new mood of cautious optimism in the Middle East over a possible rapprochement between Israelis and Palestinians, the World Health Organization has launched a public health magazine that professionals from both communities are producing together.
Called Bridges, the 32 page glossy journalmeant for professionals and informed lay peopleis the only WHO public health magazine produced by vying nations in an area of conflict.
Its first issue, published after less than four months of preparation and printed in Tel Aviv in 3500 copies, is devoted mostly to the theme of poverty and health inequity. Distributed free to a chosen list of recipients in the region and to relevant people outside, the issue is also available to download from a WHO affiliated website:
For now, said its Italian initiator, Dr Ambrogio Manenti, head of WHOs West Bank and Gaza office in east Jerusalem, it will be published every two months. If it proves useful and popular, and if additional funds are donated by international governmental and non-governmental organisations, it could appear monthly, perhaps on a subscription basis.
The magazine is written, edited, produced, and managed by Palestinian and Israeli academics and health professionals, and its policy is set by a 22 member advisory board equally divided between the two nations. A five member editorial board consists of Dr Manenti; Professor Hani Abdeen, dean of east Jerusalems Al Quds University Medical School; Randi Garber of the Middle East programme of the Joint Distribution Committee, an independent group that aims to help disadvantaged populations; Dr Fathi Abumoghli, national health officer in Dr Manentis office; and Dr Itzhak Levav, an Israeli doctor and consultant to WHO.
The idea for the magazine was raised a few months before Yasser Arafat died in Paris. "He was not a constraint," Dr Manenti says. "The magazine is an effort of individuals, not institutions; there is no connection either to the Palestinian Authority or the Israeli government. There certainly was a decline in contacts during the intifada. But I was astonished that even in the worst situation Israeli and Palestinian health professionals remained in touch by phone and email."
Dr Levav, who has much experience in cooperation initiatives in health between Israelis and Palestinians, would like Israeli journalists to interview Palestinians and vice versa to give fresh perspectives. "In one session we drafted our mission statement: to cover public health topics of importance to both populations, to analyse the impact of the conflict on their health and wellbeing, [and] to build relationships, links, and common understanding."
Professor Abdeen, a specialist in internal and pulmonary medicine who studied medicine in Britain, believes that medicine is a natural topic to begin reconciliation between the two nations. "Medicine should transcend all political, ethnic, and political issues. We are under oath to treat everyone. We want to serve as an example of coexistence, and cooperation can resolve differences."