President Joe Biden visited the Lutheran World Federation (LWF)-operated Augusta Victoria Hospital (AVH) in Jerusalem July 15 as part of a two-day presidential visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories. Biden’s stop at the hospital is the first visit by a sitting U.S. president to the eastern part of the city.
In remarks made at the hospital, Biden announced a $100 million multi-year commitment toward the East Jerusalem Hospital Network (EJHN), of which AVH is a member. He also welcomed a $25 million contribution from the United Arab Emirates and encouraged other nations around the region and the world to step up their contribution in support of “the vital work that is being done here.”
“I’m honored to be able to see first-hand the service and quality of care you provide the Palestinian people,” Biden said. “These hospitals are the backbone of the Palestinian health care system.”
Fadi Atrash, CEO of AVH, in his address to Biden called the visit a “courageous statement of support for the Palestinians and a genuine call for peace in the Holy Land.” He also mentioned the crucial role of the hospital in the Palestinian health care system, affirming the commitment of LWF: “We are willing to continue playing this role to make the lives of our people healthier and for health care to be accessible.”
Atrash also remembered the ongoing commitment of the Biden family to the hospital. First Lady Jill Biden had visited AVH in March 2010 and made a donation to its oncology ward.
Biden in his address emphasized that the U.S. 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” it provides its patients.
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.”
The visit was attended by the LWF country representative in Jerusalem, Sieglinde Weinbrenner, as well as medical staff from AVH and the other hospitals of the EJHN. Sani-Ibrahim Azar, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, on this occasion gave Biden a letter alerting him to the situation of Christians in the Holy Land and asking for support in the reunification of Christian Palestinian families.
Operated by LWF for more than 70 years, AVH is a center of medical excellence in East Jerusalem. It serves all 5 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Its specialized services include comprehensive cancer and diabetes care, kidney care and dialysis, skilled nursing and long-term care. In 2021, more than 12,400 patients received life-saving treatment.
AVH is the first and only hospital to provide radiation therapy for cancer patients in the Palestinian territories and is the only medical facility in the West Bank offering pediatric kidney dialysis. The EJHN is a group of six specialized health care facilities that form the backbone of the Palestinian health care system.
“We very much appreciate the U.S. president’s visit to the Augusta Victoria Hospital,” said Anne Burghardt, LWF general secretary. “This hospital plays a crucial role in the Palestinian health care system. We welcome the opportunity to show the excellent work being done there, which is also possible thanks to the long-standing commitment of the United States government, and our member church in the United States, the ELCA.”
Elizabeth A. Eaton, presiding bishop of the ELCA, agreed. Biden’s “presence and affirmation ‘to support health and dignity for the Palestinian people’ demonstrate his administration’s and our common commitment to continue the life-saving health care provided to Palestinians on a humanitarian basis,” she said.
This article first appeared at lutheranworld.org and is abridged and republished with permission.