20 November 2016

Mission Accomplished!

I have been remiss in updating you on my Israel biking adventure - we rolled in to Nazareth on Friday 11 November 2016 after five (well, six) days of incredible biking. A journey together that brought us from the shores of the Mediterranean up to the Upper Galilee, down to the Jordan Valley and the Sea of Galilee and finally to Nazareth itself.

As a group of old friends and new, we explored the terrain, meeting local people and viewing the splendours of the countryside. We passed through villages populated by Jews, Christians, Muslims and Druze, as well as barren hills, verdant valleys, agricultural fields and scented forests.

But the purpose of our journey was its final destination - the crazy paradoxical town of Nazareth, home to the largest Christian population in Israel, and the location of its oldest continually functioning hospital - the Scottish Hospital, established under the EMMS (Edinburgh Medical Missionary Society) in 1861 by the remarkable Dr Pacradooni Kaloost Vartan.

The whole rationale for the bike ride was to raise money for refurbishment of the Paediatric Surgical Unit. We still need to hear how much we actually raised, BUT if you want to give more, you still can! My fundraising page is at http://justgiving.com/shanenaz2016 and  remains open. When we arrived at the hospital we were given a tour of the current facilities (closed while the refurbishment gets kicked off), and I can certainly give my approval to the new plans. I think it will make a big difference to the kids coming in for surgical treatment.

But all of this got me to thinking - why should we in the UK be supporting a hospital in Israel? Surely the Israeli government should be working harder on its own healthcare policies, and properly resourcing its hospitals and clinics? The answer to this one is both complex and simple. The complex answer is that Israeli healthcare planning and funding is a bit of a mess, and healthcare organisations have to sort it out themselves while seeking reimbursement from the national insurer. Capital development is really under pressure.

The simpler answer is that in building better healthcare, and especially in building links between countries and healthcare economies, we not only show that we are citizens of the world (sorry, Theresa May, but that's what we are), but that we want to build links and collaborations with people who are often neglected or disadvantaged. And for those who aren't neglected nor disadvantaged, we still want to work with them, because life is not a zero sum game. My gain is not necessarily someone else's loss. A problem in another country is not something I can just turn up my nose at. It's an opportunity to build links of friendship and healthcare. And healthcare in particular is an effective way of building peace and understanding.

Here, in a small hospital in Israel, there's a part of Scotland (and OK for these purposes I'm going to self-designate as an Ulster Scot!) - a place that's all about looking outwards and bringing people together.

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