Humanitarian Aid for Palestinians

A.  Medical Aid Project
in the City of Nablus

A preliminary report from the third medical day that took place in Nablus on May 4, 2002

It was a sunny day in Nablus …

Saturday morning at 7:00: seven doctors, 2 nurses, and a pharmacist started out from Neve Shalom~ Wahat al Salam for a medical day in Nablus. With the party were three Jewish and three Arab non-medical people who came along to help.  The Jewish members came specifically to assist with the negotiations and transfer of medical supplies at the army checkpoint, and then returned to the village.   All members of the party to enter Nablus were Arab.

The Road: We were unable to obtain ahead of time official permits to enter Nablus, but decided to proceed anyway.  (We had already had to postpone the trip from the originally planned date, one week before.)  The party would first try to persuade the soldiers at the army checkpoint to let them through, and, if this failed, to try to reach the city via the hills and byways.

Reaching the checkpoint, the party found the army had orders to let no one through.  Despite long and difficult negotiations, the only success was to persuade the soldiers to allow the transfer of medicines and equipment to the Palestinians who were waiting on the other side.  The medical team would have to seek a different route into Nablus...

The Bypass: The delegation drove to the nearby village of Burin and joined a group of almost a hundred Palestinians, among them elderly people, women and children, who were trying to make their way on foot or donkey back through the hills to Nablus. Some were travelling there since they had heard the clinics might open.

Treatment on the road: The physicians began to treat some of the people who were travelling with them, since they were on their way to the clinic anyway. One woman on a hired donkey brought her baby to the medical team and was attended to on the spot.

Turned back by Gunfire: While they were proceeding,  there came a sudden volley of gunfire from an Israeli tank about 200 meters away. The tank had fired in the air, but then, to reinforce the warning, a military jeep came even closer and fired too, so every few minutes there was shooting from all around. Everyone tried to hide behind rocks. Local residents were used to the situation. They were not scared by the shooting, or even very careful.  Some even exchanged black humour about the situation while their lives were in danger.

Persistent gunfire made it impossible to continue to the city, and forced everyone to beat a hasty retreat.  But at least, this time, no one was hurt. 

The cell phone connection: All this time the team maintained telephone contact with the mayor of Nablus, who tried by all means to get the group into the city. He contacted higher ranking army officers and an Arab Knesset member, and finally the call came: The medical group from NSWAS would be allowed to pass through the checkpoint!

Entering Nablus: The party found a town in ruins.  Every house was damaged, shelled, or bombed. There had been an IDF attack just the previous day, and the streets were almost empty, since people were scared to walk around. Those who did so looked frightened, lost, depressed and despondent.

Representatives of voluntary organisations came to meet the group. These included two graduates of SFP activities who had organized the medical day and who accompanied the group throughout the afternoon. One of the organizers showed us her house, half of which had been destroyed in a missile attack.

A thousand patients awaited for the doctors when they arrived to the clinic. With the time left before sundown, it was possible to treat only five hundred of these. The most urgent cases were heart patients and people with high blood pressure who had no medicine, and no money for the regular visits to the local doctor which cost $1 each time.

Human Contacts: The cooperation between the NSWAS delegation and the organizers was excellent. From Ms. Dalal Salame a local member of the Palestinian parliament, to Rassan Shaka’ the mayor of Nablus, to the doctors, nurses and local pharmacist, everyone tried to help make the most of this day.

The Next Step: the first thing that was promised was that all the necessary medicines that were missing  would arrive soon. (It can never be known in advance which medicines and in what quantity, will be required.)

The second thing we must do is collect money for a second medical day in Nablus, and soon! The critical time is now.  The destruction, the suffering and the depression are so great that we should not wait. We were asked by all the Palestinians who were involved in this modest project to return again.

The minimum cost of one day is $ 5000.  If we can collect more, we will bring with us besides, medicines, baby milk and food.

Please find ways to help us!

B.  Ideas on how to help...

Many good ideas have reached us from people around the world who have been involved in finding ways to collect money, medicine or equipment for humanitarian causes.  We discussed some of these in our HAP committee meeting last week, and would like to share them with you here.

Israel: Physicians accumulate samples of medicines sent to them by pharmaceutical companies. Many physicians approached by us have readily donated such medicines to the project, and Arab doctors have been particularly willing to empty their drawers.  This has already proven extremely helpful, and has enabled us to fill many prescriptions.  Anyone who has contact with physicians can try this approach.

Germany: Pharmaceutical companies are not permitted to sell medicines whose expiry date is too close.  Having no use for these, they are happy, when approached, to donate large quantities for humanitarian causes. 

The same principle applies to old or obsolete medical equipment found in clinics.  Medical care staff are often willing to contribute such equipment, which is very valuable for Palestinian clinics which otherwise would not be able to afford any equipment at all.

USA: People with a common interest in supporting humanitarian projects can organise small grassroots initiatives. Meetings of friends and possible supporters can open many hearts and pockets and get people working together.



At the checkpoint:


the medical supplies get through!

the doctors seek an alternative route...

treating people on the way:

Nablus on the horizon:

exit, pursued by a tank !

finally - Nablus:

house of one of the organizers:

at the clinic:

owner of the destroyed house, above:

not everyone was treated.