More than 20,000 permits were granted to Palestinians living in West Bank to enter Israel and receive treatment or support a patient who was receiving treatment in the Jewish state, according to numbers released to The Jerusalem Post by the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories Unit (COGAT).
That number is up by nearly 3,000 from the year before.
Medical coordination between Israel and the Palestinian Authority has been ongoing since 1995 and continues to increase each year, despite ebbs and flows on the security and diplomatic fronts.
As one representative from the program who asked to remain anonymous explained, “treatment must go on” even in times of high tension, including during each of the two intifadas and the more recent uptick of violence in the West Bank.
The Israeli health coordinator trains Palestinian doctors in Israel, helping to improve their capacity to treat patients in the West Bank. Palestinian doctors are paired with professionals from Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem and they become colleagues and friends.
When doctors in the West Bank don’t have the skills or the facilities to provide needed care, Palestinian patients are taken for treatment in Israel, especially to Augusta Victoria Compound, a church-hospital complex located on the southern side of Mount of Olives in east Jerusalem.
Israeli-Arab residents of east Jerusalem work with the health coordinator to volunteer support, bring warm meals and goodies to the families who travel to Israel to support their loved ones, and sometimes even provide them with a place to sleep.
Treatments vary, but cancer is among the most frequently treated diseases. Of the 6,000 Palestinian cancer patients from Judea and Samaria, 1,200 were treated in a hospital in Israel – including in east Jerusalem – according to COGAT.
Additionally, in 2018, more than 200 patients from Judea and Samaria – including 112 children – received bone marrow transplants in Israeli hospitals. Some 18 patients received eye neoplasms, and 103 received cornea transplants with treatment at St. John’s Ophthalmic Hospital in Jerusalem.
But it is not just about health. The program has also built invaluable ties between Israelis and Palestinians that are often not reported by the media. Doctors become friends and colleagues and consult with one another often. The medical program is first about health, but also about cooperation.