A journey to hospital
Abu Dis’ local hospital, Al Muqassed – on the Mount of Olives, visible from the middle of Abu Dis – is as far from CADFA’s centre in Abu Dis, Dar Assadaqa, as Camden’s UCLH is distant from CADFA’s centre in Cafe Palestina! But it is not so easy for people to get to as this account tells:
“Last Tuesday I was called from Abu Dis Health Centre to say that my father wasn’t well, and I rushed there to find that things were serious and my father needed to be taken to the hospital in Jerusalem. This journey took me more than a day and a half – not because of my father’s illness alone, but because of the Occupation and the way that Palestinians are treated.
Without the Separation Wall – as in the past – we would not have gone to the Abu Dis Health Centre in an emergency: we would have gone directly by car to the hospital on the Mount of Olives, maybe 15 minutes away. Now the situation is expensive. I had to pay 100 shekels to take my father to the checkpoint and 150 shekels to go on the hospital. It is also dangerously slow.There is a local ambulance, ten minutes away from Abu Dis, but it took more than two hours for the “co-ordination” to go into place – that is for permission to be given by Israel for the ambulance to be allowed to go to the military checkpoint.
The system of having to go through a military checkpoint is in itself very dangerous. This was shown again today as we encountered the family of a man who had been shot by the Israeli army in the morning, on his way to take his wife to hospital.
As normal, people poured in and out of the health centre. It was so crowded that I waited outside with my father (who needed an ambulance) and another man with a pain in his chest. I heard that four people needed to be taken to the hospital and they also waited along with us. A woman was giving birth and when her baby was born, she needed to go to the hospital and added to the numbers waiting for an ambulance. People who suspected they might have Corona came into the same place – it was milling with people.
In the middle of the morning an ambulance arrived with the body of a man from Biddu (north-west of Jerusalem) who had been killed by the Israeli army at the checkpoint in Bir Nabala, the main checkpoint between Biddu and surrounding villages and Ramallah. When he was killed, Osama was in a car along with his wife and they were on their way to hospital for an appointment. They showed their papers to the Israeli soldiers and were told to drive off, but as they drove off a group of soldiers opened fire on them. Osama was killed and his wife was injured. She was taken to hospital in Ramallah. Osama’s body was sent to the Al Quds University Medical School for an autopsy before burial, but he could not be prepared there as needed to be buried in the Muslim way so he was therefore brought to the Abu Dis Health Centre. The area around the health centre filled with cars belonging to Osama’s family and a big crowd came, upset and crying, into the health centre.
At 11 .30, the ambulance we were waiting for arrived, and I got into it with my father, another patient and his daughter. We left at the same time as Osama’s family – their ambulance and cars headed north towards Ramallah and we headed north towards the major checkpoint to Jerusalem. This meant that all of us were going towards the settlement of Maale Adumim along the main road and created a big traffic jam – so it took a very long time to get to Azzayem checkpoint.
At Azzayem checkpoint, the Israelis want the West Bank ambulances to stop as only ambulances with Jerusalem number plates are allowed to drive on the other side of the checkpoint. We waited for half an hour for these ambulances to come from the east, go through the checkpoint and join the checkpoint traffic jam to go back towards the West. The Israelis wanted to be involved in every single move and this added a lot of time before my father and the other patients were taken from the first ambulances and put in the second and on their way through the checkpoint towards the hospital.
Now the “co-ordination” that the Israelis had earlier given had allowed my father to go along with me to the hospital, but it didn’t allow us to move around or stay and I was not able to go home and come back… and we had to get new permissions to be in Jerusalem. The hospital decided my father should stay in and gave me a health report which should be the basis for a “permission” for two family members to come and go so there could be someone with my father. At 4pm, I was given this paper and sent home with someone from Abu Dis; this was too late to be sorted the same day.I needed to stay overnight as my father was in a bad situation and I didn’t dare to go home and not be allowed back if I were needed.
The paper then had to be taken to the Israeli Civil Department at Qalandia Terminal and a “permission” issued. This “permission” was not issued till 2pm the next day and my mother was able to travel in to see my father. So I left the hospital and went through the checkpoint on the way home. I was held up briefly while they checked on my ID and also held another man who had himself been taken to the hospital as a patient. He had not made the second “permission” as I had done as he did not expect to have people visiting him; he had stayed overnight and then returned home. I expect that in the end they will have released him but the whole process depends on the mood of the soldiers and they may have held him hours before they let him go: I don’t know.
This was the first time I had been able to go to Jerusalem for a year – I wasn’t able to go to the old city or visit further as I was busy with my father, but from the window of his hospital I could see even more Israeli flags around the hospital and around the city. The city is changing. Even on that day there was more news about Israeli settlers taking over Palestinian houses.”