For the first time ever, Muslims, Jews and Christians in Greater Washington are uniting around a mission of saving Palestinian lives and supporting Israelis and Palestinians who are committed to working together for the benefit of all.
Since the beginning of June, our congregations, the All-Dulles Area Muslim Society, Temple Rodef Shalom and St. John’s Norwood Episcopal Church — as well as other important congregations and Interfaith organizations — have joined together in an ad-hoc Muslim-Jewish-Christian Alliance for Ventilators for the Palestinians. As of this writing, we have raised more than $37,000 to provide top-of-the-line ventilators and ancillary equipment to ICUs in hospitals across the West Bank and Gaza. The campaign ran until the end of August.
We are undertaking this effort as an interfaith component of a global Palestinian Emergency Ventilator Appeal undertaken by Project Rozana, an international NGO working to strengthen ties between Israelis and Palestinians through health care. Project Rozana initiated the campaign in response to an appeal for help in securing an adequate supply of ventilators by Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki of the Palestinian Authority. Also involved is Rambam Hospital in Haifa, Israel, which will train medical personnel at the Palestinian hospitals in use of the equipment.
Our groups have united in support of this initiative at a time when relations between the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority are in a perilous state. Negotiations between the two sides have been stalled for years, and until very recently, Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank seemed likely - though it may be on hold for now. Yet we know that whatever happens politically, Israelis and Palestinians are fated to share in perpetuity a common land the size of Maryland that is sacred to all our faiths. We are therefore committed to helping make Israeli-Palestinian coexistence cooperative and mutually beneficial.
First and foremost, we have formed this alliance in order to save precious Palestinian lives. By helping to accomplish that, we are living out together the precepts so memorably articulated in the Bible, Talmud and Quran that we must love our neighbor as ourselves and if we save one life, it is as though we saved the whole of humankind. Yet let us remember that this effort is also about saving Israeli lives. COVID-19 has vividly demonstrated that the two peoples cannot seal themselves off from each other; that a spike in the virus on one side of the separation wall endangers the health of people on the other side. Only by working in concert can Israelis and Palestinians contain the coronavirus. The government of Israel has endorsed this effort by Project Rozana.
In addition, we are inspired that Project Rozana and allied NGOs have created a vibrant network linking thousands of Palestinians and Israelis who work together every day to improve the quality of life for both peoples. In the process, they come to know each other as individuals and build ties of friendship and trust. We are determined to help sustain and multiply these human encounters.
The same logic applies here in America, where this initiative brings us together in an uplifting common cause. While the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has often been a source of division and discord for those working to strengthen interfaith ties in the U.S., lately we have realized that working to mitigate it can actually bring us closer together. Even if we do not agree on all aspects of a political solution to the conflict, we can come together to improve conditions on the ground and enhance communication and cooperation. Taking part in this endeavor allows us the opportunity to accomplish all of that in Israel and Palestine; and gives us momentum to make a positive impact going forward. The inspiring commonality of purpose we have achieved also serves to strengthen our communication and interactivity on this side of the ocean.
As members of the Muslim-Jewish-Christian Alliance for Ventilators for the Palestinians, we stand united in the goal of helping Israelis and Palestinians build a happier future in which the well-being and human rights of both peoples are nurtured and protected. We are in this effort for the long haul.
Rizwan Jaka is chairperson of the Board of Trustees at the All-Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS Center) in Sterling, VA; The Reverend Anne E. Derse is Deacon of St. John’s Norwood Episcopal Church in Bethesda, MD and Jeffrey Saxe is a Rabbi serving Temple Rodef Shalom in Falls Church, VA.