September 13, 2014
The first time I visited Jerusalem in 1979, I stumbled by accident upon the great Lutheran hospital on the Mount of Olives, Augusta Victoria. I was so proud to see Luther’s seal there in the midst of Palestine, and to hear of the important medical care for refugees that we have been part of since 1950. Today nine major departments, from diabetes to radiology make use of 164 beds and a number of mobile units to provide Palestinians care that would otherwise be inaccessible.
Last summer as we were leaving the Middle East we visited Augusta Victoria again. Along with the fine stories of the ongoing work, we also heard of the looming financial crisis. It seems that the Palestinian Authority, pressed from many sides, has fallen in arrears in paying the bills of those it sends to the hospital. It currently owes $22 million to Augusta Victoria alone, and another $19 million to other east Jerusalem hospitals it uses.
The United States can help. We can separate humanitarian assistance from other Palestinian Authority assistance and prioritize it directly to these hospitals through USAID, the U.S. Agency for International Development. You are in a position to make this happen through letters to your congressional delegation. Our church is asking us to request $50 million as soon as possible for these hospitals—a grant that will save lives and insure that there is no interruption in medical care for West Bank and Gaza patients.
Please consider taking a look at the ELCA website on Augusta Victoria’s plight. Or open the attached [Download not found]from Karin Brown, ELCA Peace Not Walls Coordinator. Please consider contacting our North Dakota senators and congressman. I find them responsive to reasonable pleas and interested in new information. An informed phone call to these numbers carries much weight:
Senator John Hoeven’s office: 202-224-2551
Senator Heidi Heitkamp’s office: 202-224-2043
Congressman Kevin Cramer’s office: 202-225-5611
Your colleague in ministry,