25 years of medical exchanges between Homerton and Haifa in Israel
- Credit: Martin Sugarman
Despite 3,000 miles of land and sea between them, two hospitals - one in Hackney and the other in the Israeli port city of Haifa – have been connected for decades through work exchanges.
Rambam hospital in Haifa and Hackney's Homerton hospital have been twinned since 1968 but week-long medical exchanges, like the most recent on October 28, began in the 1980s.
Such exchanges have helped staff from both hospitals trade expertise and forge professional friendships for the last 25 years. The next visit will see Homerton hospital staff travel to Haifa - a city that Martin Sugarman, chairman of the Hackney Anglo-Israel Friendship Association (HAIFA), says is a diverse place like Hackney. The organisation helps organise and facilitate the exchanges.
"It has, as well as the Jewish majority, Christian and Muslim populations - it's the world headquarters of the Baha'i faith," he said.
"The Bahá'í Faith is a religion which teaches about unity and equality among people and that all religions have value."
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He added: "There's quite a big Druze community and a small Vietnamese community [who came there] in the 1960s."
The Druze are an Arabic-speaking religious and ethnic group whose faith has roots in Islam.
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Martin said: "We're all about bridge building. [The exchanges are] very good for inter-faith meetings but also [for building relationships] between the two countries."
This time around staff from Rambam hospital met with staff from its twin in Homerton.
They work-shadowed their Homerton counterparts, asked questions and exchanged views and techniques. Rambam hospital staff also had time to socialize, visit the houses of the people they had been working with in Homerton and got the chance to travel around London.
Martin said back In 1968 when Stanley Clinton Davis was mayor of Hackney the local council decided, along with Jewish and non-Jewish members of the local community, to twin with Haifa.
At the time twinning projects were more popular than today.
More recently in 2013, St George's University School of Medicine was officially twinned with Homerton - though they had been having informal exchanges with Homerton and Haifa since the 1980s.