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  • Writer's pictureHumans without Borders

Gerry Cohen

Born in the East End, London

Gerry, can you tell me something about yourself?

Because I passed the 11+ exam I had a promising future ahead of me, despite the fact that I was raised in orphanages for most of my early life. I attended a good grammar school and from there went on to University College London. After finishing my BSc in biochemistry, I wanted to get away from England. I signed up for an Ulpan Avodah and spent a year on Kibbutz HaZore’a. Afterwards I was fortunate to be accepted into a Ph.D. program in Biophysics at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot. Later I travelled to the United States for a postdoc, and eventually made my career at the Tel Aviv University. I stayed in the Life Sciences Faculty in TAU for almost 40 years and retired as a full professor.

How long have you been involved in HWB?

I can’t recall the exact circumstances, but about 15 years ago, I made the connection through a friend. At that time HWB was still a small organization with limited means, headed by Jamilla. It was not even registered as an authorized charity. They were still in the stages of debating the name.

What do you do for HWB?

Jamilla and the other founders were happy for me to join because I was fluent in English and had experience with fund raising. As a scientist in Israel one spends a great deal of time writing grant applications. At that time, my wife Ilana, who has been a constant source of encouragement, and I did some driving as well. We would pick up a family from the checkpoint at Qualandia and drive them to the Tel HaShomer hospital. But with time, my volunteering focused on fundraising. At the moment we are living in England. As far as HWB is concerned, England is not a bad place to continue with the fundraising. Several charities that have helped us out are from the UK.

What is the importance of volunteering at HWB?

With the years we began to feel increasingly distressed about what is happening in Israel/Palestine. The work for HWB is a saving grace. It is the least we can do. I am aware that our contribution is very small and it is not going to change the situation in Israel, but that is a frustration we have to live with.

What are the challenges of volunteering?

I haven’t yet managed to get that one really big donation that would keep us going for several years. That would be a highlight of my career as a fundraiser. I haven’t given up on that idea.


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