Road to Recovery: Israeli Hospitals Care for Palestinian Patients

by Larry Englander, February 27, 2019

During our recent stay in Israel, we spent a morning with Road to Recovery. This organization sends drivers to pick up patients from the Palestinian territories who are unable to receive the necessary treatment in their community, and takes them to Israeli hospitals. It was an unforgettable experience to witness this first-hand.

Our Israeli driver, Eli, picked us up at our hotel at 6:00 a.m. As we drove toward the Eliahu checkpoint near Qalqilia, he informed us that Road to Recovery has 1900 Israeli volunteers and dozens of Palestinian volunteers. They have shuttled 20,000 patients each year and have covered over 1.2 million kilometers annually. Half of the patients are children.

Here is how it works. A Palestinian patient must first receive documentation from his or her doctor to certify that the required treatment is unavailable in Palestinian hospitals. The next step is to receive a permit from the Israeli government to cross over into Israeli territory. Once this is done, the patient makes an appointment at an Israeli hospital. The patient contacts the Palestinian co-ordinator of RTR, who arranges for a volunteer to pick up the patient and to drive him/her to the checkpoint. In the meantime, the Israeli RTR co-ordinator has arranged for an Israeli driver to meet the patient just inside Palestinian territory (this is because Israelis are permitted to cross into the territories but Palestinians are not allowed to cross into Israel unless they have a permit – more about this later). Driver and patient then cross the checkpoint and travel to the Israeli hospital. Once the appointment is over, the process is reversed and the patient is returned home.

On our journey, we picked up a five year-old boy with his father. The boy, Muhammad, a resident of Nablus, had previously received a kidney transplant at the Sheba hospital in Tel Hashomer, and we were taking him for a follow-up examination. Muhammad wore a surgical mask over his mouth and nose to protect his vulnerable immune system. Neither he nor his father spoke Hebrew or English, so Eli communicated with them in short Arabic sentences. Cheryl was prepared to entertain Muhammad by singing to him, but he promptly fell asleep (this is not to be taken as an evaluation of Cheryl’s singing!).

When we entered the checkpoint, just a few meters from the pickup point. We were asked to get out of the car and go into an inspection station. We noticed that many cars were parked along the roadside on the Palestinian side of the border. Eli explained that Palestinians are not allowed to drive into Israel; they must cross the checkpoint on foot and then take a taxi, a bus, or an Israeli driver to their destination. For people who work five days a week in Israel, one can only imagine the time and financial cost. At any rate, the father, son and Israeli driver were cleared through inspection rather quickly. Cheryl and I were asked what we were doing in that car and why we had crossed over to the Palestinian side, but eventually we were cleared as well.

Our drive to the hospital took about 45 minutes due to traffic jams on Israeli roads. A very grateful father and sleepy little boy got out of the car and made their way into their appointment. There was no language barrier when the father said ‘Shukran’ (thank you) many times!

On the way back to our hotel, we asked Eli if he could imagine the emotions of Muhammad and his father. He replied, “Probably a combination of gratitude and humiliation.” We asked if any Palestinians also expressed resentment, since Israel clearly has the upper hand — not only in power but also in medical knowledge. Eli told us that, on the contrary, the vast majority of patients are grateful that they can receive expert medical treatment that is unavailable in their own community. In fact, Palestinian physicians and medical staff also meet with their Israeli colleagues to receive training. RTR has a slogan “Triple T: Transportation, Treatment, Training.” This programme gives Palestinians an opportunity to see the kinder face of Israeli society. Many of the patients keep in touch with their drivers and medical staff, so that long-term relationships are formed. Might we hope that these relationships will form a grass-roots movement toward peace?

Road to Recovery is funded by Project Rozana which began in Australia and has now spread to many countries including Canada. You can access their website at, where you will find a link to “Canada”, from which you can make a donation. Project Rozana has an interesting story in itself about the Palestinian girl after whom it is named. We believe it is most worthy of your support.

Rabbi Larry & Cheryl Englander

Filed under: Reflections

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