Ellen Isaacs, M.D. will share thoughts and photos of her visits to the Occupied Palestine Territory in the West Bank at 10 a.m., Sunday, Oct. 28 at the All Faiths Tabernacle services at the Mauch Chunk Museum and Cultural Center at 45 W. Broadway in Jim Thorpe. The event is free and open to the public.
Dr. Isaacs, a practicing internist for 40 years, has made five trips to the occupied territories and Israel two on independent trips, and three trips with the Health and Human Rights Project of American Jews for a Just Peace.
During these visits she has met with doctors, political leaders, human rights activists, and has spent time talking with patients, medical students, and many Israelis and Palestinians.
"I've traveled to the West Bank, a place most people don't get to hear about, and also to Israel," Isaacs said. "I'm going to present some historical background and talk about what I learned there.
"Three times I went as a doctor and met with Israeli and Palestinian medical people. Then I returned twice more to visit," Isaacs said.
"Most people have little idea of what really happened, and what life is like for people in the West Bank. The West Bank is under Israeli military occupation. It is constricted in terms of travel, the availability of goods and jobs, and medical care and education. There is a differentiation in the societies with the Israelis being relatively rich and the Palestinians being relatively poor."
Isaacs, who is Jewish, has become sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians in the West Bank.
"It's basically one large prison camp. People cannot leave or travel freely. There are some dire consequences in terms of health, work and nutrition," said Isaacs.
"I am definitely opposed to the occupation. There are many Jews who feel as I do. I would like to see one egalitarian country where everyone lives equal with one another and where the state is not based on religion either Muslim or Jewish."
Isaacs was asked why she continued to return to the West Bank.
"The medical group that I went with was interesting and when you return to the same place you start to get more of an in-depth experience and understand what is going on," she responded. "Most people who do medical work abroad have a code where we don't think about why things are the way they are, and we don't talk about it.
"We just try to be helpful. As a group we realized that anything we did was of minimal value. We weren't really changing people's health or the system. It was really a way to learn about the situation and be able to talk about it with people when we came back."
Isaacs said she wasn't particularly knowledgeable about the region when she first arrived in the West Bank.
"Like most people in the United States, we have a lack of information because the press and the government is pro-Israeli. I felt it was important to educate people."
Asked about the health problems in the West Bank, Isaacs replied, "It is not that the health problems are different, it's that there is a lack of health care.
"The environment is poor. There is very little protection from dust. We see a lot of people with respiratory diseases. People cannot get enough fruits and vegetables. You see a lot of diabetes and obesity.
"There isn't any integrated health care system, partly because travel is restricted so people can't get to the hospitals that exist. Modern equipment cannot get in when needed. There is no coordinated insurance system. Healthcare is skimpy, fractionated and disorganized. The life expectancy is low, much lower than in Israel," said Isaacs.
"I saw a lot of psychological stress people are living under harassment and uncertainty. It is said that 80 percent of the children have post traumatic stress disorder. That's huge."