Jan 18 2009
YMCA ‘PEACE’ PRE-SCHOOL IN JERUSALEM: Where children of both Arabs and Israelis learn to co-exist and respect each other.
While the media may not show it and you might not know it, all across Israel coexistence programs remain strong despite the current war with Gaza. These children don’t know about wars, or who’s a Jew and who’s an Arab. What they know is how to sing along and have a good time together in harmony.
These are the children of the YMCA’s Peace Preschool in Jerusalem. The program has been running for the past 25 years and strives to make coexistence a normal part of life, even before you can form a sentence, or an opinion.
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Even though Hamas’ Charter calls for the destruction of Israel and Hamas’ Qassam rockets continue to be launched into civilian areas, Israel has just opened a state-of-the-art new medical center on the Gaza border for Gaza residents.
The Israeli emergency relief organization, Magen David Adom, in cooperation with the Department of Health opened a new medical center at the Erez Crossing between Gaza and Israel on Sunday. The initiative is part of the Israeli government’s humanitarian efforts to assist the civilian population of Gaza.
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Unsung hero rescuing lives at the Gaza-Israel checkpoint.
With Israeli mortars fired on one side, and bullets passing overhead from the other, Vaknin, the deputy director for the south district at Magen David Adom (MDA), Israel’s version of the Red Cross, risked his life to bring the Palestinian child out of Gaza and take him to an Israeli hospital for life-saving treatment.
Vaknin doesn’t look like a hero, but over the last four years in his job working for the MDA, he has helped bring thousands of sick and injured Palestinian children and adults from the Gaza strip to Israeli hospitals for vital medical care, often on a daily basis.
Even before the current conflict began, it was a dangerous job. Hamas sniper fire and rockets have been aimed many times at both Vaknin and the Palestinian patients he was transporting.
Vaknin is responsible for all the humanitarian efforts at the Erez checkpoint. “Every day, almost, we’re taking injured and sick people to Israel through the Erez crossing,” he says. “We have a coordinator in Gaza working with us.
Each month, the MDA normally transfers about 120 Palestinians for care. “Taking the ICU car, we get to the border and walk down to the cement fence,” he says. Palestinians can throw stones, Qessams or sniper fire at them, he says noting that the reaction is the same whether he is trying to rescue a child, an adult, or even a baby in an incubator.
In the last week, the checkpoint has been closed, and the Palestinian coordinator has stopped calling. News reports suggest that the Palestinian Authority has reversed its long-standing policy and is now banning all medical transfers to Israel.
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