a (normal) day

today was a first for me: i taught on a saturday. well, maybe not a first. i seem to recall that when i taught in warren correctional institution (that’s the euphemism americans use for prisons) in ohio i think i also spent some saturdays there. we have make-up classes right now because of the strike earlier in the semester and today was one of those days. but it did not feel like a normal teaching day because it was clear that many students did not show up to campus. most of my students attended, but the normal buzz around an najah was not there.

in between classes i ran downtown to see my new doctor. she’s a colleague in the medical school at my university. i called a few days ago for an appointment because it is time for my annual blood work to check on my thyorid. i always seem to put this off until i notice things are not quite right with my body: usually this means i start to feel tired and cannot sleep enough. my doctor told me there is only one endocrinologist in palestine and that he is based in ramallah, but neither of us can seem to find a working phone number for him. so i decided to get blood tests to take them with me to beirut where i can see my old doctor in a couple of weeks. but it struck me as i went there today how easy medical care is here (and i would add in lebanon and jordan as well) when comparing to the medical system (or more precisely non-functioning system) in the u.s. it reminded me of my dear friend kathi who died a couple of weeks ago; my friend who should not have died but because of her lack of money and therefore lack of access to health care she died for reasons that could have been managed through proper care. i cannot recall what it costs for my usual blood work up in the u.s., and i did have health insurance so i only paid a fraction of it, but the laboratory fees were quite high. they were certainly too high for most average americans to be able to afford such tests. here i paid about $33 for a doctor’s visit and check up and my blood test–and even then the woman in the lab tried to make make me pay less than the test after i gave her exact change!

i remember the first time that i was struck about the ease with which one navigates health care in this region. i was living in amman at the time. my (step)son got extremely ill one night. we had to take him to the emergency room about 3 different times in 24 hours. he had a wide array of lab tests, an i.v. drip, was given medicine and we did not pay more than $100. even his father was surprised as it seems in india, where they are from, the fees would have been significantly higher as well. too, in the u.s. we would have waited for hours before a doctor would see us. not only was he taken in immediately–not because we were foreigners, but because they had enough people on staff–and he was treated with the kindest treatment imaginable. even after he was stabilized, one of the male nurses who spoke english decided to sit and chat with him. the bedside manner of that nurse–and really all the medical professionals i’ve dealt with in lebanon, palestine, and jordan–is unimaginable in the u.s. there is a kindness, an interest in the whole person not just the thing you are seeing the doctor for. even doctors who i’ve encountered in the u.s. who believe in holistic medicine, and thus try to get to know you as a person, always seem to have a wall up. and it never seems to be reciprocal; whereas with divy, the nurse and divy had a real conversation that was completely natural as if we were having dinner in someone’s home.

here in nablus i not only was offered a quick appointment with my new doctor–and on a saturday no less–i was also given my doctor’s cell phone number. and as with my experiences with medical professionals here, she was kind, and concerned, and shared as much about who she is as she asked questions about me. in a normal examination in the u.s. doctors ask about your health history. here when they do an intake they ask all sorts of other questions about what you do, what you teach, things not related to your health necessarily. and this is striking to me particularly because i really learned about the health care system (or the lack thereof) in the u.s. by watching my mom navigate it when she was trying to fight and then dying of breast cancer. she always felt it was very important for her to have real relationships with her oncologists; i think it made her feel like she was better cared for that way. but it always seemed to me that she had to fight for such relationships. and because my mom was a fighter she managed to procure such relations with her doctors. at the same time if my recollection serves me well these relationships were not genuine or real in the sense of a real friend or someone who cares for the whole person. certainly they did unusual things for her, including making house calls when warranted. but these doctors always had a wall up. i never felt like they were kind or loving as i wanted–and frankly needed–them to be especially given the hell that it is to watch your mother die.

anyway, after i left the doctor’s office building and the lab i decided to do some shopping downtown. i’m trying to collect lovely nabusli items for friends in lubnan and jordan (i’m taking orders so please email me if you have special requests you haven’t told me about yet). downtown was also a bit quiet this morning–odd given that it is normally rather busy on a saturday with everyone doing their shopping or eating out. and then i went back to school to teach my next class before heading home to write. this is a little snapshot of my life here. it is just a normal day of working and running errands or going to appointments. but “normal” for palestinians is more like what i posted below–earlier this morning–about palestinians in nablus being kidnapped and their homes invaded by israeli terrorist forces (itf). this is a daily occurrence in nablus, too, though as a foreigner not one that i am subjected to directly. but i am connected to it as rarely does a day go by when my students don’t share stories with me about their own homes being invaded and about their loved ones being kidnapped. the other item i posted below about lebanese farmers being kidnapped yesterday is not normal in that it is not a daily occurrence, though certainly it has happened far too often since the creation of the zionist state. the two men, mohammed tarraf and hassan tarraf, have apparently been returned now:

Israel on Saturday turned over to the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) two farmers kidnapped from their olive grove a day earlier.

UNIFIL turned over the two, Mohammed Tarraf and his brother Hassan, to the Lebanese authorities amidst reports that Hizbullah was considering adopting a “decisive stand regarding such acts.”

Hizbullah’s al-Manar television also said the Tarraf brothers suffered from wounds caused by dogs during interrogation by Israeli officers.

An Israeli infantry patrol on Friday crossed the Blue Line with Lebanon and kidnapped the Tarraf brothers from their grove near the southern village of Blida.

what is so enraging about these kidnappings is that the u.s. media never reports on this. but the kidnapping of lebanese farmers is more disturbing as it suggests intentional escalation and belligerence on the part of the itf. because it does not happen every day.


but i also was thinking about the village of blida where the farmers are from and where they were kidnapped. the only reports about these farmers have been the very brief ones i’ve posted here from afp and an nahar. i posted a map of the village above and you can see it just about 2 km from the border with 1948 palestine, occupied by the zionist state. as a result when the itf invades, as it did in the summer of 2006, it levels the homes, kills the people, and those who remain are forced to flee. rasha salti puts it quite well with respect to blida and neighboring villages:

There is a pattern emerging now: Marwaheen, Srifa, Blida, and Qana: terror to induce forced displacement (or pardon my French, “deportation”). Scorched earth and mass graves–this is how we achieve the New Middle East. from “Notes From the Siege.” in Nubar Hovesepian’s The War on Lebanon: A Reader

but thinking about villages like blida–or other villages in south lebanon where i spent time after the war, villages like sila’a, markaba, deir keifa, or houla–makes me wonder about those villages before the zionists occupied the land. about the way in which people could move freely across them. about the way families interacted. about the way people could freely farm their land. about the way they didn’t think of that gray line in the map i posted above as a border at all. about the way that walking in that area would not have meant kidnapping, imprisonment, death. but now a simple walk means all of those things. and yet the world stays silent. journalists are silent. governments are silent. the united nations is silent. all are silent, it seems, except for hezbollah:

Hizbullah on Saturday condemned the kidnapping of two Lebanese citizens by Israeli troops, describing the act as a “flagrant” violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701.

A statement issued by Hizbullah wondered what the Security Council’s response to the kidnapping of two Lebanese farmers by Israel is going to be.

“What is the Security Council response to the flagrant violation of Resolution 1701 going to be?” Hizbullah asked.

Israel on Saturday turned over to the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) two farmers kidnapped from their olive grove a day earlier.

UNIFIL turned over the two, Mohammed Tarraf and his brother Hassan, to the Lebanese authorities amidst reports that Hizbullah was considering adopting a “decisive stand regarding such acts.”

Hizbullah’s al-Manar television also said the Tarraf brothers suffered from wounds caused by dogs during interrogation by Israeli officers.

An Israeli infantry patrol on Friday crossed the Blue Line with Lebanon and kidnapped the Tarraf brothers from their grove near the southern village of Blida.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Fouad Saniora telephoned UNIFIL Commander Gen. Claudio Graziano to express strong condemnation over the kidnapping and to thank him for his efforts that led to the release of the two Lebanese farmers.

what did get media coverage today, albeit mostly regional coverage, is the full-fledged breaking of the so-called “truce” as the itf murdered ali oleyyan hijazi today with one of its american-made missiles:

Palestinian sources in the Gaza Strip reported on Saturday morning that a Palestinian fighter was killed and two others were wounded when the Israeli army fired two surface-to-surface missiles at a group of fighters in Beit Lahia, in the northern part of the Gaza Strip. Another resident died of wounds suffered five years ago.

Medical sources at Kamal Adwan Hospital identified the slain fighter as Ali Oleyyan Hijazi, age 25. His body was severely mutilated. The two wounded residents suffered mild-to-moderate wounds, the Maan News Agency reported. The slain fighter is a member of the al-Aqsa Brigades, the armed wing of the Fatah movement.

The Israeli Army also fired a third missile at the same area; no injuries were reported.

A spokesperson of the Brigades, member of Ayman Jouda group, said that Oleyyan was planning on getting married on Monday morning.

hijazi was not going to have a normal day today. he was getting ready for his wedding that should have taken place tomorrow. i saw his mother interviewed on tv. wailing. a life cycle broken. things are out of order: a mother must bury her son without ever even having the chance to watch him marry.

there was something else not quite normal today–in a good way. palestinian political prisoners in ofer military prison near ramallah revolted. why did they revolt? because they were resisting their daily body searches. and let me tell you if it is anything like the cavity search i endured a couple of years ago on the king hussein bridge it is certainly something to resist if it is part of your daily routine. these political prisoners have been there as long as 2 years under what the zionists call “administrative detention.” this is their euphemism for: we’ll-keep-you-here-as-long-as-we-want-without-charging-you-and-without-a-trial. i have been to this prison twice before. once for a protest against a friend’s administrative detention. the other time for a friend’s trial, which turned out to be postponed. you can watch nour odeh’s report on al jazeera (and a bit on the gaza attack) here:


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