Representatives from Indonesia,
Israel sign medical agreement

Indonesian delegates signed a medical cooperation agreement with Israel's national emergency medical service Magen David Adom (MDA) and the American-Israel Joint Distribution Committee in Tel Aviv last week.

The US$200,000 agreement involved Sudibyo Markus, deputy chairman of Muhammadiyah, which, with some 30 million members, is Indonesia's second largest Muslim organization.

The Indonesian delegation was led by Prof. Aryono Pusponegoro from the University of Indonesia, who chairs both the 118 Emergency Ambulance Service Foundation and the Indonesian College of Surgeons.

"I was invited there (to Tel Aviv) to sign the agreement only as a witness. It was Pak Aryono who was directly engaged in the cooperation," Sudibyo told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

"There was no a memorandum of understanding between Muhammadiyah and Magen David Adom," he stressed.

However, Sudibyo said Aryono currently serves as an health advisor to Muhammadiyah.

"Muhammadiyah is interested in such a program," Sudibyo added.

The Muhammadiyah runs dozens of clinics, hospitals, orphanages, schools and universities across Indonesia, which are recognized by the government as well as international organizations.

Sudibyo said the accord, signed with MDA chairman Noam Yifrach on Oct. 30, was a cooperation between Israel and Indonesia regarding humanitarian emergency health services.

The visit was also intended to promote an "interfaith" dialog between the Jewish state and the world's largest Muslim nation, he added.

He said the visit would not have happened if the MDA had not been recognized as an equal member of the International Committee of the Red Cross two years ago.

The agreement was preceded by a week-long MDA course on the "management of multi-casualty incidents", something that the two countries sadly share a need for. A group of 23 leading Indonesian health system professionals attended the course.

Yifrach and the MDA coordinator of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, David Abadi, came to Jakarta in September to finalize plans for the Indonesian doctors to take part in the training.

Both Yifrach and Abadi held meetings in Jakarta during the visit, The Jerusalem Post reported.

Sudibyo said the cooperation was made as Israel is home to the world's leading experts in medical emergencies.

"I was interested in going there to learn about its medical emergency services system," he said. "In India it takes some 30 minutes for an ambulance to bring a victim to hospital, while in Israel it takes a maximum of 10 minutes," he added.

"It's easier to order a pizza in Indonesia than an ambulance," Aryono was quoted by The Jerusalem Post as saying to the laughter of his colleagues. The dismal paramedic units he alluded to face severe financial difficulties and were hit hard by the tsunami that devastated Southeast Asia in 2004.

"People don't know what a paramedic is in Indonesia. "But after this trip, they will," he continued.

The accord will lead to the training of Indonesian medics and paramedics in Israel and at home.

Sudibyo said the Indonesian doctors who were trained in Tel Aviv would pass their knowledge on to other paramedics upon returning home.

The recent exchange visits between Indonesia and Israel are rare events, since the two countries have no diplomatic ties.

"When there are people-to-people interactions, and personal relationships being built, things start happening," Aryono said.

"This is how you make peace. As soon as politics comes into it and politicians get involved the whole thing falls apart," Yifrach was quoted as saying.

"I believe this could lead to a process of eventual diplomatic relations between the two countries," he added.

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