No politician who has won a Nobel Peace Prize for peace in the Middle East has
actually succeeded in bringing peace to the region, though he may have
contributed toward that goal.
Sometimes the people on the ground who have
no political agenda do a better job than the politicians.
A case in point
is United Hatzalah, the emergency medical first response organization of
volunteers which was founded by Eli Beer, whose singular goal is meeting an
emergency in the shortest possible time with the aim of saving life, regardless
of whose life it is.
United Hatzalah’s volunteers include both haredi and
secular Jews and any definition in between, as well as Arabs and
Beer, together with Murad Alyan, a male nurse at Hadassah hospital
and head of United Hatzalah’s east Jerusalem branch, are this year’s recipients
of the Victor J. Goldberg Institute of International Education Prize for Peace
in the Middle East.
The award ceremony was held on Monday at the US
Embassy’s American Center in Jerusalem.
The IIE, founded in the US in
1919, has a network of 17 offices worldwide and more than 1,000
The partnership between Beer and Alyan deserves
recognition, said Hilary Olsin-Windecker, the US Embassy’s counselor for public
affairs. Working as a team, they’ve brought together Jews and Arabs for the sole
mission of saving lives and serve as a positive example to others.
Obst, IIE’s deputy vice president for international partnerships, came from New
York for the award ceremony.
In order to achieve lasting peace, he said,
“You have to have greater understanding between nations and peoples.”
IIE’s Goldberg Prize recognizes the outstanding work done by two individuals –
one Jewish and one Arab – working together to advance the cause of
The prize is named in honor of Victor J. Goldberg, who after a
34-year career at IBA, where he reached the rank of corporate vice president,
retired in 1993 and joined IIE’s board of trustees.
The award was
established to advance the cause of peace in the Middle East; to bring people
together across religious, cultural, ethnic and political divides; to break down
barriers of hate toward the other; to recognize, invest and reward those who are
courageous and committed enough to work to overcome the religious, cultural,
ethnic and political issues that divide the region; to inspire others in the US
and the Middle East; to motivate current and future participants in the IIE’s
programs, especially those sponsored by the US Department of State; and to work
toward peace in the Middle East.
Goldberg was proud that the award was
being given for the ninth consecutive year.
In explaining the background
to the award, he said that the IIE wanted to honor him and name a room after
him. The idea didn’t appeal, so he was asked to think about something that was
important to him and that wasn’t difficult at all.
Israel has always been
important to him, particularly because the peace that Israel craves has been so
elusive. He was 15 years old when Israel achieved independence.
in Chicago next to immigrants with numbers on their arms and near a parochial
school where everyone accused him of having killed Christ. The establishment of
the State of Israel was the bright light in his firmament.
But for all of
his adult life, there has been strife in the Middle East. The political
leadership has failed, he said, and he was looking to find Jews and Arabs who
were working together for peace.
Initially, finding such people seemed
like a remote possibility.
But then, once the award was established, and
he came into contact with people in different fields, in which Jews and Arabs
were working together in various organizations and projects dedicated to equal
rights, peace, empowerment, bereavement, research and so forth, he realized that
there are people on both sides who have devoted their lives to peace
On Monday morning Beer and Alyan took Goldberg to meet
volunteers in Mea She’arim and in the Arab market in the Old City of Jerusalem,
and he was impressed by their enthusiasm and dedication.
He saw the
ambucycles and the medical kits always ready to meet the next
However, on each of his visits to Israel, what strikes him as
an American is that “equal privilege appears nowhere in sight.”
Goldberg this evokes memories of the civil rights struggle in America, in which
American Jews played a significant role.
As for effecting change in the
Middle East, Goldberg said that political courage to create change is essential,
but until that happens, private citizens are needed to be models for other
agents of change.
Beer said that he and Alyan were accepting the award on
behalf of 2,100 volunteers, and were donating the $10,000 prize to United
Hatzalah toward another ambucycle or more defibrillators.
He said that in
the morning, a call had come in from Silwan with regard to a child that had lost
consciousness. Two volunteers, one a settler from the West Bank and another an
Arab from east Jerusalem, responded to the call. They arrived together from
different places, treated the child and then drove off.
They were still
wearing their helmets when they met up with Beer, Alyan and Goldberg. Beer asked
Goldberg to guess which of the two was the Arab, and Goldberg couldn’t tell
until they removed their helmets and the sidelocks of one of the two men fell
from the top of his head to frame his face. He was also the one wearing a
Alyan said that without the encouragement of his wife Safa urging
him to save people whenever he has to, he did not know where he would be
He was hopeful that the prize “will motivate more volunteers to
share what we do.”
Beer said that Alyan had put him to shame and promptly
paid tribute to his wife, Giti, and their five children, who have constantly
supported his efforts.