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President Joe Biden visited Augusta Victoria Hospital on July 15 as part of a two-day presidential visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories. Biden’s visit to the hospital was the first visit of a sitting U.S. president to East Jerusalem. The president announced a $100 million multiyear commitment toward the East Jerusalem Hospital Network (EJHN), of which AVH is a member.
Augusta Victoria Hospital (AVH) is the first and only hospital to provide radiation therapy for cancer patients in the Palestinian territories and the only medical facility in the West Bank offering pediatric kidney dialysis. AVH faces ongoing cash flow problems as a result of the inability of the Palestinian Authority (PA) to pay on a regular basis the fees for cancer patients it refers to the hospital.
The hospital has received vital support from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in recent years (nearly $57.42 million in cancer-related machines, lab equipment and training) that has raised the level of cancer treatment available through AVH for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.
In his address, the president emphasized that the United States will continue to work with Palestinian leaders, the Israeli government and international partners to ensure that the EJHN remains “sustainable, available, and is able to provide the high-quality care” that Palestinians deserve. He later announced in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, that several Arab Gulf states would provide another $100 million to the EJHN.
“Palestinians and Israelis,” he noted, “deserve equal measure of freedom, security, prosperity and dignity. And access to health care when you need it is essential to living a life of dignity for all of us.”
Upon the occasion of the president’s visit, Bishop Ibrahim Azar of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land shared a letter with Biden about the wider context and effects of the occupation, highlighting the plight of Palestinian Christians.
In her thank you letter to the president for his visit, Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton said that, as a Christian theologian, she agreed with his comment that “hope springs eternal.” She said that many “found our hope for peace with justice in the Holy Land bolstered by your visit last week in support of the East Jerusalem Hospital Network. It confirmed that we must recommit ourselves to recognizing the inherent dignity of each person, as God does, and to standing with and caring for the well-being of one another — as your father said, ‘no matter what their circumstance.’”
Many members of Congress visit Palestine and Israel in August — encourage your members of Congress to visit AVH to see firsthand the important work being done and the hospital’s partnership with the U.S. government through USAID.