Israel: Ruchama Marton

Showing solidarity, making protest, practicing medicine – that is the essence of my activities.

— Ruchama Marton

Ruchama Marton is a psychiatrist, a psychotherapist and a peace and human rights activist. She is the founder and president of Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-Israel), a non-profit health and human rights NGO, established in 1988 and based on cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian health professionals and human rights activists. She has been leading the peace movement in Israel, struggling unrelentingly against the Israeli violations of the Palestinians’ human rights. In four decades she has also been involved in feminist activities, fighting for a just social order in Israel.

In December 1987, at the outbreak of the First Intifada, Dr Ruchama Marton mobilized a group of Israeli physicians to meet with Palestinians in order to fathom the real conditions of the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and to build a bridge of peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. During those days contact with Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) members was banned by Israeli law. Ruchama Marton has risked her life both by meeting with Palestinians and by entering the Occupied Territories at the time of the Intifada and exposing herself to Palestinian shooting. Her visit disclosed facts to her that she would not have been able to discover if she hadn't been there. The Israeli army reacted to the Palestinian uprising with an unprecedented level of human rights violations. Collective punishments and brutal actions were perpetrated against the Palestinian population. The Israeli public was being misled and misinformed by its leaders and the media regarding these actions. Ruchama Marton and her associates drove to the Shifa Governmental Hospital in Gaza. There they saw casualties with multiple fractures of the arms and legs and men unconscious due to clubbing on the head. The hospital reeked of overflowing toilets, bandages stained with blood and puss, and damp and moldy walls; images that do not exist in Israeli hospitals. This visit was the catalyst for the formation of Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-Israel). For 21 years since 1967, Israel had obstructed the development of the Palestinian civil infrastructure. The Palestinians were therefore dependent on Israel for livelihood, health care and medical treatment. On their way home, Marton's group documented the factual evidence they had seen at first hand. A few months later these rumpled notes came to be the founding basis and ideological ground for the establishment of PHR-Israel.

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-Israel)