The past few weeks have been difficult and disturbing for many in Israel, but despite tensions, Israelis and Palestinians across the spectrum have continued to coexist and cooperate in many fields. According to Dr. Maher Deeb, the Medical Director of St. Joseph’s Hospital in East Jerusalem, medicine presents “one of the shining lights” of this cooperation.
“Medicine is the true bridge in this terrible situation,” he said, “and should be harnessed even more for peace.”
It is with this purpose in mind that Dr. Deeb, alongside Prof. Amitai Ziv, Deputy Director of Sheba Medical Center and Director of Sheba’s Rehabilitation Hospital, established the Ambassadors of Peace program. As with many wonderful initiatives, the Ambassadors of Peace program was born out of a close personal friendship.
“We were placed in the same study group in our first year of medicine in Jerusalem,” recalls Prof. Ziv. Later, the two young doctors studied on fellowships together in Philadelphia where their families also became close.
Back in Israel, they decided to turn their personal friendship into a professional collaboration. Dr. Deeb was frustrated at the level of training of some of the young Arab graduates who had studied abroad, and Prof. Ziv suggested they do their specialization at Sheba Medical Center, recognized as one the top medical institutions in the world.
After Dr. Deeb handpicks his most promising doctors for training at Sheba, they then work as resident doctors at the hospital, specializing in a wide range of fields: orthopedics, surgery, oncology, and more. As of today, some 20 Palestinians are receiving their medical training at Sheba Medical Center.
“We do our best to give our Palestinian doctors a sense of belonging and community,” explains Prof. Ziv, “and we hope that education can become a bridge for peace.”