Tourism in Israel? U.S. charity’s offer with Gaza hospital project irks Palestinians
US charity FriendShips, an evangelical Christian group, is building a tent hospital in the Gaza strip, causing controversy by offering foreign medical volunteers a weekend of tourism in Israel across the volatile border. Construction of the facility had won support from both Hamas, Gaza’s Islamist rulers, and Israel. However, civilians in Gaza are now wary of the operation, and the FriendShips website advertises a “wonderful opportunity” to work while “enjoying the Biblical sites of Israel.” A Hamas official stated that he was against using the suffering of the Palestinians to attract employees or tourists at their expense.
However, there is no suggestion that Hamas will scrap the project as a result of the tourism promotions. Gaza has 13 hospitals, lacking equipment for specialized treatments. Permission to cross the border into Israel for medical care is often very hard to obtain. Another Hamas official stated that the hospital could go in two directions, either it will be a positive humanitarian tool for the Palestinians, or it will be asked to cease operations and leave immediately. The hospital’s construction with private US funding was controversial with Hamas’s rivals in the Palestinian Authority, who claim it will be an American-Israeli military base on the land of the Gaza Strip.