Road to Recovery
The ceasefire was still holding when Sally accompanied Yuval Roth on his journey to pick up several Palestinian children in need of medical treatment.
Road to Recovery is a non-profit organisation that provides transport for hundreds of Palestinian children suffering from cancer, leukaemia, kidney disease and other life threatening illnesses.
Yuval, a 60-year-old carpenter, founded the organisation as a way to recover from his own personal tragedy. In 1993, his brother Udi was kidnapped and killed by members of Hamas who were dressed as Orthodox Jews when they offered him a lift in their car.
"I heard an interview on Israeli radio with a man who lost his son in the same way," Yuval said. "After the interview, I called him and he told me about a group he was establishing dialogue for bereaved Israeli and Palestinian families."
This was the Parents Circle-Families Forum (PCFF). Founded by Yitzhak Frankenthal in 1995, PCFF is a grassroots organisation of Palestinians and Israelis who have lost immediate family members due to the conflict. The PCFF operates under the principle that a process of reconciliation is a prerequisite for achieving a sustained peace.
Yuval was invited to join them and one day a Palestinian member asked for help in getting his child to hospital. Yuval realised that there were many families with similar needs and Road to Recovery was born — which now has around 500 volunteers transporting hundreds of patients from the Palestinian Territories to hospitals in Israel. The volunteers seek to break down the barriers of mistrust between Israelis and Palestinians, transporting Palestinian patients on round-trips from the West Bank and Gaza to hospitals throughout Israel for treatment, hospitalisation and check-ups.
After taking the children to hospitals in Israel, we crossed into the West Bank to meet some of the Palestinian volunteers. We passed through zone “A” under Palestinian Authority control. On the road, I saw a sign written in Arabic, Hebrew and English: “This road leads to a Palestinian village. The entrance for Israeli citizens is dangerous.”
The man who co-ordinates the transport on the Palestinian side invited us to dinner. From his house we could see the Tel Aviv skyline. He pointed towards the fence that separates the West Bank from Israel and told me that it runs right across his land.
“Those are my olive trees on the other side and the law states that if the land remains untended for three years it will be confiscated. I get up at 3.30 every morning in order to queue up at the checkpoint so I can go to work on a building site to earn enough money to pay someone to tend my olive trees.” There was no anger in his voice. Only resignation.
We were joined by some of the other volunteers, including an amazing woman called Dalia Golomb, daughter of Eliahu Golomb, a founder of the Haganah. Dalia is 84, yet she spends much of her time ferrying children from the Palestinian Territories to hospitals across Israel. She told me she holds seminars in her home teaching Israelis about the Palestinian people and why there is no need to be afraid of them.” It works both ways” she said, “when we first pick up a new patient, they look at us in surprise because we don’t have horns.”
Apart from the obvious benefits to the patients, this kind of project brings together many Palestinian field volunteers, hospital personnel and fellow non-profit Israeli and Palestinian organisations. These projects are therefore as much about the nurturing of mutual respect, trust and dialog as they are about individual patients’ physical recovery. Through their actions, the volunteers seek to break down the barriers of mistrust between Israelis and Palestinians.
View across the divide