Israeli, Palestinian Rescue Services Working Together

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JERUSALEM, Israel - Representatives of Magen David Adom, Israel's national emergency rescue service, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society and the Jordanian Red Crescent Society addressed journalists at a Mideast Press Club meeting on Sunday, sponsored by The Media Line.

Cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian rescue services has improved since the International Red Cross Committee's official recognition of MDA in 2006.

For years, the International Committee of the Red Cross denied full membership to MDA because Israel's national rescue service uses a Red Star of David as its symbol, instead of the Red Cross or Red Crescent.

Dalia Bassa, coordinator of health-related issues for the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria, said she and her staff arranged transfer of some 3,000 Palestinians in 2009 from Red Crescent to MDA ambulances for treatment in Israel.

Dr. Mohammed Al-Hadid, president of Jordan's Red Crescent Society, said politics can hinder rescue operations.

"Sometimes humanitarian work is hindered by the political atmosphere," Al-Hadid said. "This is the reality that we cannot ignore," he said.

"As a neighbor, I would like to see both the Israelis and Palestinians working together to make sure that the dignity and welfare of mankind is well-preserved," he said.

Dr. Qasem Maani, head of the Palestinian Authority Health Ministry's international cooperation department, said while communication is better, there is room for improvement.

"We Palestinians are the ones who suffer most by [mixing] health and politics. When we want to talk about health issues, let us separate health and politics," he said, adding that Israelis need to help strengthen "our health system."

Yoni Yagodovsky, director of MDA's international department, said Magen David Adom paramedics treat whoever is in need.

"MDA treats people who call us for help - Jews, Arabs and tourists," Yagodovsky said.

"Today, other countries ask us for training and assistance after disasters to learn from our experience," Yagodovsky said.

"Many obstacles have been removed in the last 10 years," he said. "There are now direct communications between the dispatching centers. It used to be much more difficult," he said.

During his address, Dr. Hadid said Jordanians used to wonder "what Jews and Israelis look like, as if they came from outer space."

"Now with the media and Internet, we know. We are all the same and should make the world a better place," he said.

"People who don't want us to live in peace focus on the differences," Dr. Hadid said.

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The Jerusalem Post contributed to this report.

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