Saturday, November 9, 2002

Al-Media Village (third visit)

(by Howard Shippin)

On Saturday November 9, volunteers departed from NSWAS to conduct a medical aid day in the village of Al-Media.  There, in the course of a morning, they attended to all 112 persons who came for treatment, and both prescribed and provided medicines without charge.  This was the third such visit to the West Bank village of Al-Media.

The medical staff, NSWAS member Dr. Abdel Rauf Higazi and Dr. Nader Abdel Rahman (the son of a teacher at the NSWAS Primary School) were joined by pharmacist Adnan Manaa, who is both a village resident and a member of the HAP (humanitarian aid for Palestinians) coordinating committee.  Three other persons joined to assist. 

Leaving NSWAS at 8:00 AM, we made the brief journey via the Jewish planned city of Modi'in, and passing through the military checkpoint just north of the Palestinian village of Ne'ilin.  At the checkpoint the soldiers informed us that Ne'ilin was currently under closure -  "Make sure you have your identity cards before you go in, otherwise you will have problems when you try to get out!", they advised.

This is an area of intense Jewish settlement activity.  Nearby hilltops are crested with red-roofed housing developments, and cranes are hard at work building more.  On a Saturday, entering Ne'illin, there is the surreal sight of Chinese, Thai and Romanian labourers, who walk or cycle in to do their shopping.  These workers replace Palestinian manpower in settlement construction and agriculture, while Palestinians remain unemployed and confined to their villages.

To reach Al-Media from Ne'ilin we travelled a severely potholed five-kilometre road through a wadi.  The road might be enjoyable except for a double stench: raw sewerage that flows at the wadi's base, and burning refuge from an open midden along the road.  A lack of infrastructure is a minor consequence of occupation.

Ascending from the wadi, we reached Al-Media, a village of 1,350 people.  Just beyond a fading welcome sign, there stands the spanking new community centre built two years ago with European Community and United Nations Development Program help.

The building is usually empty, but since our arrival had been announced from the loudspeakers of the village mosque, a group of patients were already in waiting.

Within a few minutes our practiced medical staff had set up shop.  The two doctors established consultation rooms and began to see patients, while Adnan and the others arranged medicines on a long table.

While they were busy, I took the opportunity to interview a village council member who was overseeing the operation.  This was Nazmi Ahmud Sadaka, a middle-aged father of eight.

Besides the people who come from NSWAS, does the village get any other medical assistance?

"About every four months, the Palestinian Authority manage to send a team of doctors."

Is this a situation that has worsened since the start of the intifada?

"There was no permanent medical presence even before the intifada. This clinic was built two years ago with assistance from the UNDP and Europe, in the hope that it would enable medical personnel to work here."

What do people do if they need a hospital?

"They go to Ramallah. This is often difficult, depending on whether there is a closure, and the situation at the checkpoints. Sometimes women have to give birth in their homes without medical assistance."

Do the villagers find any employment?

"Most of the men formerly worked in Israel, but now this is impossible since they are unable to get permits. A few take the risk of bypassing the checkpoints to look for work in Modi’in or nearby towns.  I myself didn't manage to work for the last two years."

So what do you do for money?

"I have been living off my savings from the time when I could work. Now I have reached the end of my resources. I can't even pay the fees to send my children to school, so they have to stay home."

What about agriculture?

"In 1948 the lands of our village were taken by the Israelis, and now belong to [the Jewish settlement] Hashmonaim."

Is there land for building?

"The Israelis have declared the land along the Green Line as a no-building zone.  Permits that were originally granted for building have been revoked, with a consequence that some 65 of our houses are now under demolition order."

Where do the children go to school?

"There is a school in the village for children up to the 8th grade, and afterwards they must walk to the high school in Ne'ilin."

What is your hope for the future?

"Our immediate hope is that the occupation will end and that we will obtain our freedom. We want to be able to go out to work again and earn a livelihood for our families."

Adnan had also been speaking to the patients while filling their prescriptions.  Since the number of patients was effectively about 10% of the village population, it was pertinent to ask what they would have done in the absence of the medical aid day.  One man, who was suffering from a throat ailment, explained that normally he would have to walk up to Ne'ilin where, for about 80 NIS, he could see a doctor.  "And do you have the money for that?"  - "No, but I would have to pay anyway." Another patient said she simply wouldn't bother to seek treatment.

Adnan explained that one of the reasons the HAP had chosen the village of Al-Media was its poor economic position and lack of medical assistance.  NSWAS will try to continue these visits about once a month.  A better solution would be to try to open a proper clinic and arrange regular visits by a local doctor.





the team

the checkpoint

the road to

the village


filling a prescription

Dr. Nader Abdel-Rahman with a patient

a child with prescription

Nazmi Ahmud Sadaka

children returning from the village school.

See the story of Malak Taiser (also from Al-Media)