Qalandiya - Things are bad now and will get worse

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Tamar Fleishman; Translator: Tal H.

The fact that seriously ill patients must suffer an entire saga in addition to the one they are doomed to undergo, to beg the Israeli authorities to grant them a permit to exit the largest prison in the world, present professional medical opinions, wait an unknown period of time for their jailers to decide whether they live or die, and know that some of their family members might be blackmailed into serving as informers – all this is because Israel, in control of the Gaza Strip, denies it medical means and limits the introduction of life-saving medical equipment.

The woman ill with cancer groaned and moaned in pain as four Red Crescent men lifted her emaciated body and transferred her to the stretcher on which she came from the Al Najah Hospital and placed her in the Jerusalem ambulance to be taken to the Erez Crossing, where she would be transferred to a Gazan stretcher and taken to a local hospital for treatment.
The many transfers between stretchers and ambulances, like the many hands lifting and putting her down, and the robbed time – are all a result of this policy, by which not the patient has priority but rather the well-kept procedures.
A momentary guest, even a permanent one like myself – with an effort – could not imagine and contain the difficulties and hardship of Palestine’s migrant workers.
Adults who, because of impoverishment and difficulties of making a livelihood, are forced to leave their homes, take leave of their wives, daughters and small children, and move to a place known for its pedestrian and vehicle traffic, to try to vend wares and thus make a meager living.
They rent a room or flat in one of the refugee camps between Ramallah and Qalandiya where they live all week, getting home to their extended families for the weekend. Some, forced by distance and the need to “put bread on the table” (as they say), return home only once a month or even more seldom.
Most of them make sure their children study, but some do not, preferring to have their children work with them.
Such a place is the Palestinian side of the Qalandiya Checkpoint, adjacent to the front of the refugee camp.
“Better to die than live the way we do. Say, children who don’t go to school but work here at the checkpoint and go home only once a month or even less to see their mother and sisters – is this a life?” said an acquaintance of ours, and concluded by saying:
“I’ll tell you something: things are bad now and will get worse.”

A pauper’s meal of children from Samu’a: they work with their father as vendors near the Qalandiya Checkpoint