Helping our neighbors and ourselves

Humans without borders works to assist everyday Palestinians with access to appropriate medical care.

 ONE OF the longest-serving Humans Without Borders volunteers, Yael Moav, enjoys a fun day with one of the children who has received constant assistance from the organization.  (photo credit: HUMANS WITHOUT BORDERS)
ONE OF the longest-serving Humans Without Borders volunteers, Yael Moav, enjoys a fun day with one of the children who has received constant assistance from the organization.
(photo credit: HUMANS WITHOUT BORDERS)

Every so often, I write a column about good people and good organizations that the public should know about. I write about organizations that I am personally involved in and who are very worthy of support.

This column is a call for support, mostly for additional volunteers in the Jerusalem region, which are needed more than financial contributions.

Humans Without Borders (HWB) is a volunteer organization devoted to assisting Palestinian families whose children require advanced medical treatment in Israeli hospitals.

In this era of barriers, fences and bloodshed, one of our most important tasks is to create and maintain personal connections between Israeli volunteers and Palestinian families. Such personal contacts promote mutual understanding and warm friendships.

Humans Without Borders volunteers drive families to and from hospitals, providing secure and timely assistance to Palestinian families in dire need and furnishing diverse assistance to these families when their children are hospitalized.

humans without borders (credit: JESSICA LEVING)humans without borders (credit: JESSICA LEVING)

The volunteers of HWB make about 6,000 unique trips each year between the checkpoints and hospitals in the Jerusalem and greater Tel Aviv area. They also organize fun days at the seashore and at local Palestinian resorts, giving sick children and their extended families a day of relaxation and a break from their difficult daily routines.​HWB also funds medical supplies that the Palestinian Authority no longer agrees to provide, purchases medicines and medical equipment, and directly pays hospitals to cover the cost of medical procedures.

They assist more than 100 families every year, sometimes driving them five days a week and sometimes taking a child for an occasional post-operative checkup.

An organization for everyone

Each trip is a blessing to a family and a singular experience for the volunteer, creating and maintaining personal bonds among the Israeli volunteers and the Palestinian families. Such special relationships generate goodwill and help in promoting mutual understanding and warm friendships in a desperately troubled area.

In 2021, corona continued to batter the activities of HWB. Some of the drivers contracted corona and others, due to their age or the vulnerability of members of their households, elected to reduce or cease their volunteering.

Notwithstanding, since the government decided that repeating the national lockdowns of 2020 was untenable, it became possible for a solid group of volunteer drivers to meet most of the transportation needs of our children and their parents. People have learned how to live alongside the virus – windows open no matter what the weather, full masking and serious distancing.

To the best of our knowledge, neither volunteers nor family members contracted the disease during HWB activities. In 2021, they managed almost 5,800 trips, involving about 110 children, some five times a week and some once every few months.

A little more than 1,000 of these trips were handled by taxi drivers and about 80 volunteers completed the remaining 4,800. In 2022, they resumed normal activities without worrying so much about corona and the number of trips increased significantly.

Almost all of the trips were to hospitals in the Jerusalem area with a few dozen to hospitals such as Ichilov Medical Center in Tel Aviv and the Sheba Medical Center in Tel HaShomer.

HWB HAS also supported surgery for several children at Jordan Hospital in Amman. In the case of kidney transplants, the Palestinian Authority only covers expenses related to surgery and hospitalization, and requires that the family pay the costs of most medications, post-surgical testing and even lodgings for the father, while the mother (the donor) and child are hospitalized.

In such cases, they step in and assist the families that can not possibly cover the expenses involved.

The board of HWB set up a medical committee, including a retired registered nurse and a retired physician, which established firm rules for the provisioning of assistance. The committee handles requests from families and consults with Israeli physicians about appropriate steps to be taken.

Recently, several of the volunteers have been supporting older brothers and sisters of children we assist who are studying in Palestinian colleges and universities. These young people often are unable to cover the expenses, forcing them to drop out of their studies.

One of the issues is notebook computers, which are too expensive for the average Palestinian family. Members have donated used computers, which we have refurbished prior to distribution. Education is one of the few tools available for these young people to break out of the strictures of poverty.

Some time ago, a small group of volunteers decided to renew workshops for Palestinian mothers, which are held while their children undergo daily dialysis. In the past, the subjects discussed were related to women and their bodies.

This series of workshops was a great success but unfortunately, there was no follow-up. Alexandra, a recent and very devoted volunteer, negotiated with the management of Augusta Victoria hospital in order to establish a framework for the renewal of such workshops and activities.

I am not one of the very active volunteers, my wife is much more active. I do a weekly trip, taking a child from Beit Jalla home from Augusta Victoria Hospital in east Jerusalem following his dialysis, which he receives three times a week.

I can assure all of you that this is a very rewarding task, and anyone with a car and a good heart can make a small effort and put a human and humane face on someone who is usually considered to be part of the enemy.

These are our neighbors and we are their neighbors and when it comes to health and our human bodies, there is absolutely no difference between us. I strongly recommend looking up the organization on the internet, contacting them and giving some time as a volunteer to do something good!

The writer is a political and social entrepreneur, who has dedicated his life to Israel and to peace between Israel and her neighbors. He is now directing The Holy Land Bond.