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The Little Town of Bethlehem in Occupied Territory and Music of the Season

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Santa on Claire's street with no name, in the little town of Bethlehem  


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'Santa' on Claire's street with no name, 2009. Photographer unknown.
Claire's Tomb

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eileen fleming at Claire's Tomb, 2007, photo by Meir Vanunu.

The Associated Press recently reported:

"Tourism is one of the few areas of strong Israeli-Palestinian coordination. So far this year, 1.4 million tourists have visited the traditional birthplace of Jesus and 90,000 are expected during the Christmas season, a significant increase over last year, according to Israeli government figures. The numbers of visitors have been rising steadily in recent years.

"Christians have lost their majority: More than two-thirds of the 50,000 Palestinian residents are Muslim. Still, the town does its best to take advantage of its place in Christian history, going so far as to link the Christmas nativity story to the fact that it houses the West Bank's best maternity facility"situated just half a mile from the Church of the Nativity which marks the traditional birthplace of Jesus.

"The hospital has been a Bethlehem institution since 1882. Political violence caused it to shut in 1985, but the Sovereign Order of Malta, a lay Roman Catholic order, reopened it as a maternity hospital in 1990. The old building hosts advanced facilities. One wing houses the Palestinian territories' only intensive care unit for severely premature babies. Its 18 incubators often hold tiny babies born as much as three months early." [1]

On July 27, 2007 I wrote from Bethlehem:

In a private West Bank pediatric hospital, Dr. Rafat-Allawi, of Bethlehem and four General Practice residents spoke to me for the forty-five minutes that was their break time in a 116 hour week that required them to be on call at forty hour stretches. The residents were paid $1, 400.00 a month, twice what physicians are paid in the public government hospitals.

Dr. Zafer Al-Qaisi, is from Jerusalem, Dr. Mohammad Abu Yousef and Dr. Sufyan Amro are both from Hebron and the lone female, Dr. Ninn Hafiri is from Beit Jala.

Dr. Yousef: "Three days ago, I had a critical cardiac patient that required transport to Israeli hospital, as we do not have the facilities or specialists here to treat critical cases. I had to apply for a permit; permission to travel with the child in the ambulance to Jerusalem, but was refused as the Israelis claimed I was a security risk; a threat to the state of Israel."

Dr. Amro: "Yes, a threat with his stethoscope! I had a patient that was one week old with severe heart disease and needed to go to Jerusalem for emergency care. The mother, a paramedic and I traveled with the baby in the ambulance. At the checkpoint, the Israeli soldier; a female laughed and told the mother in broken Arabic, 'You cannot pass through until you admit you are a prostitute.' The mother did not understand what she was saying and why the soldiers were laughing and joking as her baby was blue, but she said what the soldier demanded and we finally were let through. I do not know what happened with that baby and this harassment at the checkpoints is not unusual. At the checkpoints it is usual to wait 3-4 hours and because Palestinian ambulances are not allowed through, we must hire Israeli ambulances for transport. They charge 1,800 shekels [ 450.00 USA dollars] and the parents cannot even make that much money in a month of work."

Dr. Allawi: "The other alternative from going to Jerusalem [a few miles away] is to take the children to Jordan for care, but that trip can take two days. Before the intifada, we were able to go to Jerusalem, but not since. Yesterday, I had a child in renal failure and there is no pediatric dialysis available in the West Bank. It took over twelve hours to locate a hospital in Israel to take him, but it was too late and he is dead."

Dr. Amro: "There are no specialists in the West Bank. The Palestinian Authority pays 80 million a year to Jordan and [Israeli] Hadassah hospitals for medical care. They could build hospitals in the West Bank and train specialists here!"

I asked did any of them have any faith in Tony Blair and the Quartet's initiative to build Palestinian infrastructures, especially in the medical field. They all laughed and Dr. Allawi added, "We have a very weak Health Ministry and there is no state authority. In 1994, when the PA started, its aim was that Palestine would assume authority and responsibility for ourselves and the Israelis present a false front."

When I commented that under International Law the occupiers are responsible for the needs and requirements of the occupied, the doctors laughed again, for it is the law of the jungle that rules the Holy Land.

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Eileen Fleming,is a Citizen of CONSCIENCE for US House of Representatives 2012 Founder of WeAreWideAwake.org Staff Member of Salem-news.com, A Feature Correspondent for Arabisto.com Producer "30 Minutes with Vanunu" and "13 Minutes with Vanunu" (more...)
 
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