One thousand and eighty eight children and adults from all over the West-Bank who suffer from hearing problems were presented with hearing aids in a cooperative project of Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, the Sheba Hospital, Tel-Hashomer and the Starkey Foundation.
In response to a request by Professor Raphi Walden, vice-director of the Sheba Medical Center and member of the board of PHR, that PHR is willing to take upon itself to locate appropriate patients and the organization of the project in the West-Bank, the director of medical activities of PHR, Mr. Salah Haj Yahya, started to coordinate this very complex campaign. He contacted dozens of volunteers in hundreds of Palestinian villages and refugee camps in the different districts of the West-Bank. Among these volunteers were many from Mutual Help Organizations, the Palestinian Medical Relief Organization, Organizations for Rehabilitation of the Handicapped, and other Charitable Institutions. After one month of intensive field work, thousands of requests for hearing aids were received. The working group at Starkey decided that for the present project some thousand instruments could be allocated, and therefore the requests were screened by the Hearing Institute at the Ear-Nose-Throat Department of Sheba Hospital. All files were examined and the Starkey work group, in conjunction with The Sheba Staff, traveled to Tulkarem for the first phase of the project. The Palestinian Ministry of Education and the Haled Bin-Said School volunteered to host the project and the Security Forces maintained order.
The first phase:
4-6 of April, 2011 – PHR, Sheba Hospital and the group from Starkey worked at the Haled Bin-Said School in Tulkarem. During these three days patients were invited for preparatory investigation and fitting of hearing aids. 950 persons were examined by the different crews and imprints of their external ear canals were taken in order for the Starkey group to prepare the hearing instruments in the U.S.
The second phase: 24-26 of May, 2011 – Professor Raphi Walden and Salah Hay Yahya worked hard to free the shipment of hearing aids from customs in order to have them available in Tulkarem for the arrival of the Starkey group. Only at 8 p.m. the shipment arrived at its destination, and for hours after that, until one o'clock at night, Salah busied himself to prepare the allotment of the right instrument for the right patient. One day ahead of the campaign, the school was prepared with a waiting area and shaded seating, and examination corners for the patients. On the first day of distribution of the hearing aids some fifty persons, medical personnel and the media, arrived from the Tel-Aviv area to Tulkarem. After some delay at the checkpoint (the soldiers were not informed of the permits the delegations were issued ahead of time) we arrived at the school court. The patients were seated already in exemplary order and quiet.
The day was opened with a warm reception by the foremen of the Palestinian Authority and representatives of the Institutions and Organizations from the West-Bank who praised the campaign and those associated with the project. An especially moving moment occurred when Mr. Salah Hay Yihyeh was presented with a certificate of merit in gratitude for his untiring efforts towards the well-being of the Palestinian inhabitants during the 23 years of the existence of PHR.
The three days of fitting the hearing aids were strewn with moving moments when we saw how the faces of children and old people changed and a wide smile lit up their lips. Children, who until now were reluctant and refrained from going to school, can now join their peers in class. These smiles and their emotions, and of their parents, filled us with pride and immense satisfaction. Also parents of prisoners came to tell us and thank us that now they hear their children well, who until now had to shout at them across the wall separating them during their visits.
On May 26th at 18:30 this complex project was terminated – a project, the first of its kind in the West-Bank - in a moving ceremony involving Starkey, Sheba and PHR and dozens of volunteers. All expressed their intense satisfaction with this action. Our Palestinian coworkers mentioned that this campaign became the subject of the day in the territories. The Starkey group promised that they will repeat this campaign in the near future. (Translation Eldad Kisch).
Photography by Hadas Ziv