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His own road to recovery
GLORIA DEUTSCH
12/03/2009
His own road to recovery
Name - Yuval Roth, Age - 55 Residence - Pardess Hanna Status - Married plus four Profession - Wood carver and juggler Organization - Derech Hachlama Hours of volunteering - Hard to say, many. Most meaningful moment - 'One of our officers mistakenly got to Jenin and was almost lynched. He was saved by a Palestinian policeman who later phoned me and told me that the year before I had taken his brother to hospital. It moved me very much. I can help Palestinian kids and save an Israeli life.' In 1993 Yuval Roth became a bereaved brother. His younger brother Udi was killed by Hamas terrorists while returning home from reserve duty. They were disguised as religious Jews and the unsuspecting young man got into the car and was murdered. "No, I didn't want revenge, but I was angry, angry and frustrated," says Roth. His response was to join the Forum of Bereaved Families of Israelis and Palestinians, which he became very active in. Four years ago he founded the organization Derech Hachlama (The Way to Recovery), whose volunteers pick up sick West Bank Arabs at checkpoints and deliver them to hospitals in Israel. Since the organization was founded, he has a list of about 150 volunteers he can call on, 40 to 50 of whom are very active. And if no one is available, he will do the job himself as he did at the beginning. How did it all begin? "Although I had never been active in the peace movement, when the disaster happened I went to hear a talk given by Yitzhak Frankenthal, a religious bereaved father, and he spoke on reconciliation and how we must stop the cycle of blood and revenge," says Roth. "I called him and told him he spoke in my name and I felt exactly the same. "Soon after this he founded the forum, but I still didn't officially join. Only five years later, after the second intifada began, did I feel I must become active. You could say [Ariel] Sharon and his walk on the Temple Mount were the trigger." Until that moment, Roth explains, he wasn't yet ready to expose himself and his pain. He also questioned the legitimacy of using his grief and wondered why it carried more weight than someone else who had not lost a loved one. "What changed my mind was that the forum could get to places no other group could. For example, the speakers can go to high schools and educate children, which groups like Peace Now couldn't [do] because they're political. In Israel, the bereaved are given respect and it opens doors. I began to feel that if I could save a life by my activity, it was my duty to be active." In the forum, which consists of about 500 families, divided equally between Jews and Arabs, he became friendly with Muhammad, also a bereaved brother, who lives in a village not far from Roth's hometown, Pardess Hanna. "One day he called me and told me another brother had a suspected brain tumor. He had an appointment at Rambam Hospital and no way to get there. Could I help? Naturally I agreed to take him and after some time I was approached by another family in the same village. Three children needed bone marrow transplants and I took them to Hadassah." I wondered what it was about Muhammad that created such a friendship between the Jewish wood carver, who entertains by juggling in his spare time, and the Arab expert on drip irrigation who works on a kibbutz. "He is a man of peace," replies Roth, "and he has completely changed direction since being in the forum. Once we wanted to go to his village for some activity, and the Border Police commander would not let us go. He said it was a hostile village. I said I know it's not, and after a few phone calls we were allowed in." Roth realized he was on the verge of creating something which could be a very positive step for peace with his idea for Derech Hachlama, the name his wife chose for the new organization. He sent out e-mails to people who he thought would respond positively, and as the list of volunteers grew, so did the demand. He is constantly amazed by the willingness of his volunteers to drop everything and drive to checkpoints at unearthly hours to ferry in sick Arabs. "We have people from all walks of life and with all political viewpoints. No, I don't think we have many on the far right, but not everyone is left-oriented politically." While he still has to drive the patients if no one is available, most of his work now involves coordinating the volunteers and sending out e-mails with a list of all the needed pickups for the week. People get back to him by e-mail and the journeys are planned two weeks in advance. Sometimes there are delays at crossings, especially if a particular permit is missing, but a phone call usually sorts things out. "We never have any confrontations with the soldiers," he adds. Since he also needs to make a living, Roth takes some time off from his remarkable volunteer activities to produce decorative wooden flowers, such as his carved tulips which he reckons every household in the country has. I told him I too had some, and from now on I will look at them with renewed respect.
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