‘Praying with my wheels’: Volunteers help sick Palestinians to Israeli hospitals

Click to play video: '‘A privilege’: Gracious Israeli volunteers help sick Palestinians get medical care'
‘A privilege’: Gracious Israeli volunteers help sick Palestinians get medical care
When Palestinians need to be transported to hospitals in Israel, they often get help from Israeli volunteers through the charity Road to Recovery. While the organization no longer operates in the Gaza Strip due to Israel's war on Hamas, it is still helping Palestinians in the West Bank. Daniele Hamamdjian spoke with some Road to Recovery members to learn what drives them to keep going – Dec 13, 2023

Mahmoud Saidi is just one-and-a-half years old, but he knows the routine quite well.

His rare genetic disorder requires a long trip to the hospital every few weeks and almost every time, there’s a different driver. But always, it is an Israeli.

The Saida family are from the West Bank, and are only allowed into Israel because of Mahmoud’s medical condition. His Palestinian parents cannot drive in Israel, so they rely on volunteers like Matitiyahu Sperber, who try their next to make it a comfortable trip.

He’s part of a charity called Road to Recovery — one that the late Israeli-Canadian peace activist Vivian Silver also worked with before her death in the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas.

“I have to say that I really see it as a privilege,” Sperber told Global News.

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He’s one of about a thousand volunteers who shuttle sick Palestinians, mostly children, to Israeli hospitals from the occupied West Bank — and prior to Oct. 7, from Gaza as well.

“It’s like my mission,” said Yael Nov, head of Road to Recovery. “You cannot go against your mission.”

Click to play video: 'Fighting intensifies in Gaza, as Israel’s war on Hamas enters third month'
Fighting intensifies in Gaza, as Israel’s war on Hamas enters third month

Nov is the head of the charity, and proud of her work. But now, she’s also very cautious.

“In Israel now, the main thing to say is, ‘Everyone in Gaza is Hamas and we should not help anyone there,'” Nov said.

“Today I feel even sometimes it’s a bit dangerous for me talking about what I’m doing.”

Donations to the charity have poured in from all over the world but in Israel, Nov says she now hears threats from fellow Israelis for the work.

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Still, the work continues.

And back on the road to the West Bank, nothing will deter Sperber, who grew up in the U.S.

“Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heshel who would talk about when he was on the march for civil rights from Selma to Montgomery in 1965, how he felt like he was praying with his feet, and I always enjoyed that image,” Sperber says.

“And I feel that now, I feel that when I’m driving these people and providing this service for them, that I’m praying with my wheels.”

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