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AJN News

Hadassah, an exemplary interfaith and coexistence environment in the Middle East

AJN Agency – (By Daniel Berliner) Walking the halls of Hadassah Medical Center is a unique experience. In view of the recent internment of Saeb Erekat, a Palestinian Authority official, some astonishment appeared in some sectors.

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Cover photo: from left to right: Daniel Berliner (Director of AJN), Malena Cohen-Cymberknoh ( Head of Pediatric Pneumonology Service) and Jorge Diener

AJN Agency.- (By Daniel Berliner) Walking around Hadassah Medical Center is a unique experience. In the light of the recent hospitalization of Saeb Erekat, top official of the Palestinian Authority, the situation generated astonishment in some sectors.

However, many Palestinians are doctors, assistants and nurses at Hadassah, and even Palestinian patients are normally treated like any Israeli citizen and with the same rights.

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Abed Khalaileh, Palestinian, director of the Kidney Transplant Service of General Surgery Department of Hadassah

An example of this is the Palestinian-born doctor Abed Khalaileh, director of the Kidney Transplant Service of General Surgery Department at Hadassah Hospital in Ein Kerem. “Hadassah hospital is like Noah’s Ark, because here you see Arabs, Jews and Christians. We have people who come from the Palestinian territories like Tulkarem, Ramallah, Hebron, Kalkilia who we teach and if they have any trouble in their area we go and help them,” he said during an interview with the AJN Agency in Jerusalem.

“I see how my colleagues fight for every patient, no matter where they come from, what they did, who their family is. And not for political reasons, but because all human beings deserve the best possible medical care,” he said.

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Victor Kukali, operating room litterer, Palestinian.

Another example was meeting Victor Kukali, a Palestinian stretcher-bearer who has been working there for 20 years. “I was the first Palestinian to work at Hadassah Hospital,” he told the AJN Agency. “I come every day from Beit Lejem and I have a special permit, which I renew every six months, and once a year I have to renew my work permit from the Israeli Ministry of Health. I believe that Hadassah is the place where you can send a message of peace. It is the place where we can say to the whole world ‘we can work, live and be together’. At first I was afraid, mostly about how they would treat me, and so the months went by and then years and now I realized I’ve been here for 20 years,” he said.

This shows that the call for peace is not recent, but many years ago this coexistence was constantly seen in Hadassah.

You only have to approach the waiting room of the operating room to see how simultaneously Orthodox Jews, Muslims, Palestinians and Catholics share the floor. Each one prays to their own God, some with their carpets on the floor, others with their kippah, others with their rosaries… and all this happens without interruption 24 hours a day, in ten square meters at the exit of the operating room. It is very common and moving to see Palestinian mothers talking with Israeli surgeons after a surgery, they have the headscarf (kippas) on their heads, and women with scarves and some even with their veils and face covered.

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Other of the most moving images can be seen in Hadassah’s pediatric sector, in the hall or multipurpose room. As soon as you arrive and look up, you can see a locomotive and its miniature iron carriages speeding through the room on a track just above the door frames. The children live an imaginary journey with their stations in the middle of the walls painted with balloons and colors. But the most wonderful thing happens when you look down and see a big low table, the ones that children use with small chairs. There they are all together, mothers, fathers and their children, some Arab parents, others Orthodox Jews, Palestinians, Muslims: all together in a rewarding coexistence and atmosphere of peace and harmony around the table.

That and many other achievements – such as Hadassah’s efforts to maintain equality in the provision of medical treatment, its exemplary model of cooperation and coexistence, and its perseverance in building bridges for peace – earned it a Nobel Peace Prize nomination in 2005 and continue to make the institution an example of coexistence in the Middle East.

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That’s why on each trip I take a moment to visit that oasis in the Middle East and say a prayer in front of Marc Chagall’s vitroux in the hospital synagogue.

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AJN News

Interview. Lorena Khateeb, the Israeli who shines on social networks and promotes friendship with Emiratis

AJN Agency.- Lorena Khateeb works in the Israeli Foreign Ministry within the Department of Digital Diplomacy, and since the announcement of peace with the Arab kingdom has been a link between Israelis and Emiratis through social networks. In an interview with the AJN Agency, said she is living this new era “as a dream” and hopes that the “brave movement” to be imitated by other countries soon. In addition, she expressed her desire to assume as Ambassador of Israel to the United Arab Emirates.

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AJN Agency.- A new reality is being experienced since the signing last September 15 of the Abraham Accords in Washington, which has opened doors that no one would have imagined. With the formal ties between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, the endless expressions of affection between the Emirates and Israel were the first signs that something was beginning to change in the Middle East.

This new scenario has important actors, from prime ministers, presidents and diplomats, who showed all efforts for peace were not in vain, and that it was possible to write a new page in history.

Among all the diplomacy, Emirati and Israeli men and women began to build bridges between the two peoples. In the digital age, and in the midst of a global pandemic that limits face-to-face gatherings, social networks were the stage for the first messages of sympathy. Love and a constant pursuit of peace were the main reasons for these unprecedented achievements.

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Lorena Khateeb

New technologies opened the way for these characters who took the first steps toward coexistence, and they were also part of this great chapter. Lorena Khateeb works at the Israeli Foreign Ministry within the Department of Digital Diplomacy, and was one of the main voices to reach out to the Emirati people. With messages in Arabic, she managed to approach the Emirati community, bringing Israelis’ gestures of love and affection to their new friends in the Gulf. In an interview with AJN Agency, she described how she lived the first moments of this new era that she defines “as a dream”, and assured that she wishes to be Israel’s ambassador to the United Arab Emirates.

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Khateeb with young Israelis visiting Dubai

A native Druze, Khateeb has been working for a long time building ties with the Arab world. “The first thing I thought was about that the people who contact us will no longer be afraid to make their voices heard, and that they will finally be able to get to know the true face of Israel,” she said. “I hope that the brave move of the UAE and its leaders will be an opening for more agreements. Peace is our solution and goal for a better future and world”, she added.

Khateeb was part of one of the Israeli delegations sent to Dubai as part of the process of achieving the agreements. “The meeting was exciting, the people were very warm, made me love the place and the culture,” he said of his trip. “I have always been curious to know their way of life, and now that the peace agreement has been signed, it is possible”, she said.

Below is the full interview that Lorena Khateeb had with the AJN Agency:

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Lorena Khateeb and an Israeli flag with Dubai as a background.

AJN- Are you aware that you are living in a historic moment and that you will have a story to tell your children and grandchildren?
LK- I’m living amazing and historical days. I never imagined it could happen, as a woman who speaks the Arabic language, I always wanted to get to know our neighbors, I always wanted to visit these countries and get to know their culture. I have always been curious to know their way of life, especially after I started working in the Department of Digital Diplomacy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and made connections with people from all over the Arab world, I became more curious, and now that the peace agreement has been signed, it is possible.

AJN- How were the first moments lived in your offices after the announce of the accords?
LK- The first moments were like a dream for me, we were all excited about it, I saw it as a tremendous opportunity, an opportunity of true peace, of stability in the Middle East, of brotherhood. Peace is possible, the people in the both sides want it. The first thing I thought about was that people who have contact us would no longer be afraid to make their voices heard, and that they would finally be able to get to know the true face of Israel up close and not how the media try to present it.
If we managed to make an impact by using the social networks and the discourse we created, then it is possible to make a greater impact in the field, I thought about how I would start hosting people, showing them places in Israel and how people are living together in coexistence, example in my village we live together (muslims christians and druze) and how in universities we study together no matter who you are.

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Khateeb with Emirates on his visit to the Arab kingdom.

AJN- To what do you attribute this great Love and expressions of affection between countries?
LK- I believe that everything begins and ends with love, whether it is in the family circle, whether it is in a career, whether it is peace between people and countries. After all, if you do not like what you do, you will not succeed. If you don’t love your spouse in life you cant move up. I think that the love between the people has always been there, people have always seen Israel as an enemy because that is what the media is trying to show, as a minority within a minority (druze woman), I always say, we have challenges, we have problems in Israel, as everywhere else, we do not try to say that everything is pink and beautiful here. But in Israel I always fight for my community to change what is not good for me, and thats the point that we are the only democracy in the Middle East, you can express your opinion, and on the other hand, in the world I fight for my homeland, Israel. There is no shortage of organizations that deal with presenting Israel as an enemy, we will do the opposite, we will present the truth about Israel, we will present facts from the field and refute lies, and in an age where the media controls and people are aware of it, we share in our department the territory of Israeli citizens, of minorities who managed to integrate into Arab society, stories of coexistence, and we share the truth from the ground.

AJN- You are one of the most visible Israeli faces among the Arab countries that have relations with Israel, what is the secret of your success?
LK- I think the secret of my success is as I said before, my love for the profession, loving what you do is the key. Also perseverance, transparency and reliability, you have to be real to be successful, you have to convey your message clearly, speak at eye level and loud, to show the simple things. You should always know how to innovate, we live in an age of imitations, you need to produce your uniqueness, and to be different, and the most important thing is to keep going. I have passed all sorts of obstacles along the way, and I never gave up. Just be yourself.

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AJN- How much have social networks and the work Israel has been doing for years helped?
LK- Social media is already a part of our lives, and they have a positive and negative impact on Israel’s image in the world, and on all levels of life. I think that with the help of our pages and work in the Foreign Ministry Digital Department and especially in Arabic we managed to influence and reach people from all over the Arab world. We receive many inquiries and messages of peace, people seeking to move to Israel, people who support Israel, we created stage, created dialogue between peoples, people want to build bridges between Israelis. People are getting to know the ordinary and simple Israeli citizen through our pages.

AJN- Where are we standing in this new phase and how do you imagine the future?
LK- It’s not a simple question. I don’t like to limit myself and my ambitions and it’s impossible to know what life is preparing for us, but I see myself as an ambassador of Israel in one of the Arab countries, I aspire and aim for the Emirates, I have a very good connection with the people there.

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Image taken by Khateeb just before he got on the plane to Dubai.

AJN- Who are your main friends with whom you quickly converged in a relationship that will remain in history?

LK- I have many friends, but people I have talked to a lot are Thani Al-Shirawi, Dr. Majed al-Sarah, Ali Al-Hamadi, and many others.

AJN- How much does this impact on the economies of the countries?
LK- The agreement has enormous business and commercial potential in a variety of fields, education, agriculture, business and more, hope it will only help and it is an opportunity for both countries both parties can benefit from it.

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Khateeb and a picture that went viral: the Dubai fruit and vegetable market displaying Israeli products celebrating peace.

AJN- Will there be more agreements soon?
LK- It’s impossible to know. I hope that the brave move of the UAE and its leaders will be an opening for more agreements, peace is our solution and goal for a better future and world.

AJN- What was your most amazing experience recently?
LK- One of the most fascinating experiences I had, is leading and participating in a civilian delegation in the reservists on duty organization where we met people from the UAE. I got to meet people I knew through my work in the mofa, the meeting was exciting, the people were very warm, made me love the place, the culture, it was amazing.

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AJN News

For Israel, accords with UAE and Bahrain are “a huge opportunity” to bring Palestinians back to negotiation table

AJN Agency – In an exclusive interview with the AJN News Agency, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Lior Haiat stressed that “the Palestinians have to make a decision as to which side of history they are on: the side of peace or the side of the enemies of peace. He also pointed out that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was a ” central ” figure for the achievement of peace deals.

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AJN Agency.- Israel said that the agreements for the normalization of relations with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain represent “an enormous opportunity” for the Palestinians to decide to “return to the negotiating table and advance on the peace process” in the Middle East conflict. This was transmitted by Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, Lior Haiat, who in an exclusive interview hours before the signing of the historic agreement in Washington, stressed that “the Palestinians have to make a decision on which side they are on in history: on the side of peace or on the side of the enemies of peace”. “Netanyahu is the central player in the agreement as is the US President Trump’s administration,” Haiat added in dialogue with the AJN Agency.

In addition, Haiat said these U.S.-sponsored agreements “created two groups in the Middle East: those who support peace, which are most moderate countries, and those who are against peace, which are led by Iran and terrorist organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas.

The following are the most important parts of the interview with Lior Haiat:

-AJN: Why is this agreement that Israel signs with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain important?
-LH: This peace agreement totally changes the current reality of the Middle East and brings a new era, a new level for Israel and Arab countries. These are two agreements that are going to create not only relations between governments but also between people, it is going to create bridges to favor tourism and commercial exchange.

-AJN: From a commercial point of view, what effect will these agreements have?
-LH: There are no details yet. We have seen in the past few years that Israel has worked under the radar that there is already a very large interest from these countries to cooperate with Israel financially. One of the first steps we have taken with the UAE is to sign an agreement that allows Israeli investments in local companies as well as UAE investments in Israeli technology companies. There is a huge potential in finding clients but also partners and investors.

-AJN: There has been a lot of talking about cooperation between the two nations, but what would it be like and what is Israel’s goal in this cooperation?
-LH: First of all, what Israel has sought since the day the state was created is peace with our neighbors. That peace process began 41 years ago with peace with Egypt and 15 years later with peace with Jordan, and it took sixteen more years for peace with the United Arab Emirates and 29 more days to announce peace with Bahrain. It is part of the same process that Israel’s relations with Arab countries are improving and we hope that other countries will embrace this process and hopefully the Palestinians will join in, because it is a huge opportunity for the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table and advance on the way to peace.

-AJN: When and how did the talks that will end with the signing tomorrow in Washington begin?
-LH: For more than 20 years we have had some kind of contact with the Gulf countries. These contacts had their ups and downs depending on the situation in the Middle East, the world situation and many other factors. In the last few years we have seen a very clear process that is improving more and more and has been going on much faster in the last few months and much faster in the last few days.

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Lior Haiat with the Director of Strategic Communications of UAE’S MFA, Hend Al Otaiba.

-AJN.- Can Netanyahu be credited with the success of the agreement?
-LH: Netanyahu is the central player in the agreement as well as the United States and Trump Administration. We are very grateful for the effort that our American ally is making to improve relations with our neighbors. Without U.S. support and pressure, we could not have reached this point.

-AJN: What other Arab countries could join this process?
-LH: I think there are a few more countries, each with its own pace. In the coming days or weeks we are going to hear more good news and that the leadership shown by the UAE government and Bahrain is going to be a model for other regional leaders. Those leaders understand very well that having relations with Israel gives a lot of value to themselves, not just to Israel. In these peace agreements, it is the two peoples and the two countries who gain.

-AJN: Can it change the scenario for negotiations with the Palestinians?
-LH: Hopefully, yes. These agreements created two groups in the Middle East, those who support peace, which are most of the moderate countries, and those who are against peace, which are led by Iran and terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah and Hamas. The Palestinians have to make a choice of which side they are on in history: the side of peace or the side of the enemies of peace.

-AJN: Within the negotiations, there was a point linked to the annexation plan, with Israel finally resigning its intention to incorporate these territories.
-LH: Israel’s plan for sovereignty over Judea and Samaria is on hold. For now, there is no agenda.

– AJN: What is the situation regarding the possible sale of US planes to the United Arab Emirates?
– LH: Obviously I am not going to talk about national security issues in the media. Our allies in the United States understand very well Israel’s security needs in the Middle East and will respect that and that has nothing to do with US relations with the Emirates.

-AJN: What is the security benefit of normalizing relations with these Arab countries?
-LH: As I said, this agreement creates a new era in the Middle East and gives more security and stability to the region. The fact that Bahrain joined it also contributes to this new stage. The Middle East needs to take over the peace process because it will benefit all countries and peoples.

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