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Crossing Borders to Save Lives

For the first time in Beth Weizmann history, the Jordanian flag was flown alongside those of Australia and Israel when the Zionist Council of Victoria together with the Jewish Community Council of Victoria hosted the Magen David Adom sponsored international guests.

On 11 September Melburnians were able to hear first-hand from the President of the Jordanian Red Crescent, H.E. Dr Mohammed Al-Hadid and the head of the MDA Director-General’s Bureau, Uri Shacham about the organisations cooperation in saving lives.

The evening kicked off with a young leadership forum providing the participants with an amazing opportunity to hear how these two men have managed to overcome religious, political and cultural differences to work together to save lives.

The community forum, moderated by John Searle, chairman of the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, enabled the attendees to gain insight from the variety of thought provoking questions.

Dr Al-Hadid gave both the youth and the community insight into the role of getting Israel accepted into the international Red Cross in 2006. He has been credited with paving the way for MDA to become a full member of the International Conference of the Red Cross.

“The Red Cross’s fundamental principal is universality and by refusing the MDA membership meant that they were breaking their own principals.

“The MDA is the Red Cross’s 185th international member and by allowing them access and membership we were able to draw on their vast experience and knowledge. At the end of the day we are apolitical and our goal is the same – to save lives and alleviate suffering.”

Uri Shacham told the youth and the community that being part of the Red Cross enabled MDA to not only save lives but also to act as an ambassador for Israel. “We show the rest of the world that Israel is capable of great acts of humanity,” while briefly reflecting on their humanitarian aid in countries such as the Philippines and Haiti.

He spoke of MDA’s wish ambulance that helps terminally ill children have their wishes granted. How it doesn’t matter what race or religion these children come from that they are sick children and it’s up to MDA to help them make their wishes come true.

Both men are firm believers that peace will eventually come to the region one day. Dr Al-Hadid said: “If we want to get rid of stereotypes we have to instil it in our children. It comes from the home and as parents we have to teach acceptance. It all reflects on our upbringing, the school and education we chose for our children and the company our children keep.”

Mr Shacham said: “Governments won’t bring peace it’s the people who will bring peace on the ground. The Red Cross as an organisation focuses on people not governments. It is people who will make the peace! The Red Cross does not answer to any government but abides by international law.

“The Red Cross is an amazing organisation. We have no borders and work together to save lives. By allowing the MDA to join this incredible organisation we have all won. MDA is the best emergency medical service in the world – we have the Jewish mind and Israeli chutzpah and innovation is part of our DNA.

It is almost 20 years since the peace treaty was signed between Jordan and Israel. Dr Al-Hadid said when talking about his role in getting MDA accepted into the international Red Cross movement: “What’s the point of signing a treaty and not doing anything about it? This treaty has allowed us to establish friendships and share our knowledge.

“Jordan unfortunately has vast experience with earthquakes and shares a common fault line with Israel. It is this experience that has enabled us to be leaders in temporary mass shelters and accommodation. This experience coupled with Israel’s cutting-edge medical knowledge has benefited both countries immensely.”