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25 years of medical exchanges between Homerton and Haifa in Israel

PUBLISHED: 14:46 14 November 2019 | UPDATED: 12:56 18 November 2019

Town hall reception for Haifa nurses with the Speaker of Hackney Councillor Kam Adams and other local councillors, Lt Col Roderick Morriss, the Deputy Lieutenant of Hackney and the chair of Hackney Jewish War Veterans.

Town hall reception for Haifa nurses with the Speaker of Hackney Councillor Kam Adams and other local councillors, Lt Col Roderick Morriss, the Deputy Lieutenant of Hackney and the chair of Hackney Jewish War Veterans.

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.

One of the first medical exchanges in 1994. Nurse Terri Porrit (left) is now a visiting lecture at Rambam hospital and goes to Haifa several times a year to teach. Original caption: One of the first medical exchanges in 1994. Nurse Terri Porrit (left) is now a visiting lecture at Rambam hospital and goes to Haifa several times a year to teach. Original caption: "Nurses from the Homerton Hospital in East London are given a farewell by Hackneys mayor Nicholas Tellentire, before leaving for a fortnights working visit to the Rambam hospital in Haifa. The group was selected through an essay competition and the visit arranged by the HAIFA. An exchange group of Israeli nurses will come to London in the spring." Picture: Peter Fisher

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."

Martin Sugarman (left) , Chair Hackney-Haifa Twinning Association (Hackney Anglo-Israel with nurses from Haifa and Homerton hospital at Rambam hospital in Haifa.Martin Sugarman (left) , Chair Hackney-Haifa Twinning Association (Hackney Anglo-Israel with nurses from Haifa and Homerton hospital at Rambam hospital in Haifa.

He added: "There's quite a big Druze community and a small Vietnamese community [who came there] in the 1960s."

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The Druze are an Arabic-speaking religious and ethnic group whose faith has roots in Islam.

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.

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