After years of preparation, Friend Ships will begin seeing patients this week at its tent-based medical facility in Gaza, the tiny strip of land bordering the Mediterranean Sea, Israel, and Egypt.
Jews and Muslims had coexisted in the area of fertile farmland, where flowers, cherry tomatoes, herbs, and strawberries grew readily. But after Palestinian Authority took control of the majority of Gaza, stricter measures were imposed by Israel in 2000, leading to violent outbursts and frequent military operations to prevent terrorist attacks against soldiers and Jews living in the Gaza settlements. In 2005, Israel evacuated Jews from Gaza.
Nearly two million people, primarily Palestinian Muslims were left in Gaza under the rule of Hamas, the Palestinian Authority. The socioeconomic condition in the area has steadily declined, and the years of conflict that followed left the vast majority of the population dependent on international aid. Gaza has one of the highest unemployment rates in the world, and nearly half a million of its residents live in refugee camps.
In addition to widespread poverty, many have been profoundly traumatized by blockades, armed conflicts, and violence. It is estimated that at least 30% of children display resulting symptoms, including nightmares, eating disorders, intense fear, and bed wetting.
And Gaza, like the rest of the world, is not immune to COVID 19. The virus has brought further complication and devastation.
Friend Ships is no stranger to the Middle East and lacks no compassion for Muslim refugees, as evidenced by the ministry’s previous tent-based medical facility that served Syrian refugees on the border of Israel and Syria. My husband sailed by ship with the ministry to war torn Israel in 2006 to offer humanitarian aid to the Jewish people, and I had the honor of visiting Camp Ichay in person in February 2018. The Gaza Health Center, however, is 10 times the size of the previous facility. The vision for helping the hurting people of Gaza is far beyond that of previous undertakings.
Located in northern Gaza, adjacent to the Erez Crossing in Israel, the multi-faceted mobile medical facility goes beyond medicine and offers a large children’s play area, a hydroponics training program for adults, and a distribution center to meet material needs.
In addition to onsite medical personnel in a wide variety of specialties, telemedicine will allow for consultations with specialists worldwide. Volunteers from around the world will staff the impressive, guarded facility. For every medical provider, five other non-medical volunteers are needed to offer support while compassionately serving these people who feel forgotten and without hope.
Patients will be seen Monday through Thursday, and room and board are provided while volunteers are on site at the health center. Volunteers will be given the opportunity to make their own arrangements over the three-day weekends to see and enjoy biblical sites of the Holy Land.
Applications are being received for onsite doctors and nurses, as well as telemedicine specialists, trauma informed therapy providers, physical therapy, equine therapy, interpreters, and other non-medical volunteers who can serve in a variety of ways.
For more information, click here. Once an online application is completed, the applicant will receive a phone call from a Friend Ships crew member to discuss the opportunities available.