Tuesday, January 6, 2009

don't forget jenin

over the last few days i have travelled thru the most secured checkpoint to get into jenin and travelled through the west bank from jenin to bethlehem.

i went to jenin with the plans of working at a hospital there called patients friends hospital. we were set up in the physiology department. it's not very busy and it was best if i just treated women. jenin is the most conservative place i've been to so far. i only saw one woman without her head covered. there was definitely the awareness that there are not many foreigners who come.

if you aren't familiar with jenin, i suggest you look up it's history. for many years it was a strongly resistant to the israeli occupation, in april of 2002 israeli soldiers 'cleaned it up' in what has become known as the jenin massacre. simialr to what is happening today in gaza. under the auspices of getting rid of terrorists israel entered te jenin refugee camp and literally flatenned an area of the town the size of a few football fields, in it's 'fight' with palestinian gunmen. medical teams were not allowed in until after the 'clean up' was finished. when human ights and medical teams were allowed back in what they found was dead bodies and rubble. there was much propaghanda in the western press trying to justify israel's actions and downplay the extent of the damage and civilian casualties.

it is much different today, but there is a sense of heaviness everywhere you go. we were invited to stay with one of the physiologists in his town of anin just north 20km of jenin. it was a different experience than any other i have had so far, except the hospitality which i have come so much to appreciate here. expecially being a woman in a place where men and women stay seperated most of the time. at first many of the older men did not know how to interact with me but as we sat and talked soon we were laughing and they were calling me over to show me things and eat together. talking about what was happening in gaza and similar conversations i have had with many. typically families live together - building one story on top of another for each of the sons to live in when they have married. it was a beautiful house with a balcony on top that had a lovely view of sunrise and sunset as well as a neighboring town in 'israel' that abdala's father works in. he used to be able to travel to work walking there in 15 minutes, but the view also included the boundaries defined by an electric fence where i'm sure they will build the wall when they get the chance. it outlined the entire hillside to the west of our view. so know his father has to travel 10 hours to get to his place of work 5km from his home. he stay there most the time now and only comes home for a few days every couple of months. and to compound things further palestinian workers in israel don't have any rights. he works in construcion and does amazing tile work. he worked for 5 months and on a project and then never got paid. and he has no legal recourse to get what he deserves. so not only does he not see his family but for all his efforts he can't even provide for them. jenin and the outlying towns are very poor. there is no work, so most of the men travel far to try to provide for their families.

one of the older gentleman i met invited me over to treat his daughter with cereral palsey which seems to be very common in jenin. much more than i have heard in other areas. we had met with two doctors from the jenin refugee camp about treating the children there and they said most of them would be cerebral palsey patients. i treated her and we were offered a second dinner with olives and olive oil made in the village. it was the best olive oil i have ever tried.

when night came i went downstairs to sleep with his mother and sisters. it was almost like a slumber party. they were so excited to ask me many questions. we stayed up for hours communicating with their little english and my very little arabic. but we had fun and laughed. i get the feeling i was something very different to them. expecially being 29 and not married with a family. which has been another common topic of conversation. when we finally got to sleep the youngest daughter,iman, woke 3 times in the night with screams and asking for her mother to comfort her. i saw first hand how the young are affected even before they can intellectually understand the events around them they embody and are gripped with the fear.

in the morning we returned to the hospital and tried to contact the unrwa medical treatment facility which we heard has over 700 patients a day. but they were not interested in our services so we headed back towards bethlehem, which i think worked out best so i could finish the training to help people quite smoking at al-rowwad center in aida camp.

travelling through the west bank we passed at least 5 or 6 checkpoints and travelled along the wall in some area for quita a distance. at every checkpoint the first israeli soldier you see has his gun trained on every car that passes. someimtes you are stopped and questioned and other times they let you through somewhat quicker. but often times you have to wait for long periods of time. you see gates on evera road that they can easily shut is they don't want to allow travel between the areas at all. on our way we passed one of the biggest settlements and the army presence was the most i had seen so far. they were atop al the hills always with hands on there guns, talking and laughing, but always prepared to use it. the roads we travelled were bumpy and winding and i got to see the large well cared for roads used by he settlers that are in the west bank but not allowed for palestinian travel. i'm sure they get to use there 'highways' for quick and easy passage that easily takes palestinians at least 3 to 4 times longer depending on the conditions of the roads and how difficult the checkpoints are that day.

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