Religious leaders move to stop violence against paramedics

Representatives of Judaism, Islam and Christianity to declare commitment to sanctity of life.

In an attempt to improve relations between Arabs and Jews and protect the lives of ambulance drivers and paramedics, senior representatives of Judaism, Islam and Christianity will meet in Haifa on Wednesday to sign a medical ethics declaration expressing a commitment to the sanctity of human life. The statement of ethical principles will be used by Magen David Adom, the Red Cross and the Red Crescent. Eli Jaffe, head of MDA's Public Relations, Volunteer and Training Division, said that while the declaration would not be obligatory, he hoped it would help protect ambulance drivers and paramedics, whether Arab or Jewish. "It's an understatement to say that there is religious tension in this part of the world," said Jaffe, whose organization arranged the conference. "Jewish ambulance crews get pelted by rocks when they attempt to enter certain Arab areas," he said. "Just a few years ago, one of our ambulances was attacked and set on fire in east Jerusalem. Luckily, an Arab ambulance driver came to the rescue. "I hope that tomorrow a call will go out that individuals whose job it is to save lives are off limits, they are beyond all religious or political rivalries," Jaffe said. The signing ceremony is scheduled to take place in the Haifa Auditorium at the end of an interfaith conference entitled "The Three Monotheistic Approaches to the Value of Lifesaving." Subjects slated to be discussed include blood donations and the extent to which one is obligated to save another person if doing so places him or herself in danger. Haifa Chief Rabbi Shear Yishuv Cohen will represent Judaism. The founder of the Islamic Movement in Israel, Sheikh Abdallah Nimer Darwish, will represent Islam. Archbishop of the Melkite Catholic Church in the Holy Land Elias Chacour will represent Christianity. Darwish said ahead of the conference that he hoped to create a coalition of religious leaders that would fight discrimination and protect human rights. "We are witness to daily human rights abuses and the destruction of foundations for coexistence," he said. Chacour said he was concerned with the tendency among citizens of the Holy Land to resort to force to solve conflicts. "Unfortunately, there is a growing wave of violence among both Jews and Arabs," he said.