To Augusta Victoria and Back
From time to time, and it's been happening all too often recently, my private affairs are pushed to the center of the stage, and I find myself entangled in some international affair on which all the spotlights are focused.
This time it is the visit in Israel of the President of the United States, Mr. Joe Biden.
Usually, these visits are summed up in their threats to the Jerusalemites: The siege has returned! highway 1 will be blocked! don’t move anywhere! Galaxy aircraft land and spill out cars, helicopters, a mobile hospital and what not. And so already on Sunday four huge helicopters of the American strategic force passed over my balcony, making a tremendous noise, on their way to the nearby city of Bethlehem.
At about the same time I received a call from the coordinators of a volunteer organization called “Humans Without Borders”, in which I volunteer from time to time, to verify that I was ready to come to the Bethlehem checkpoint the following morning at 9:00 and drive a Palestinian boy and girl, both suffering from cancer, and their attendants to Augusta Victoria Hospital on the Mount of Olives. Augusta Victoria? President Biden is also scheduled to visit there! I must clarify - Augusta Victoria is not exactly a hospital. This is a 120-year-old building that formerly served as a Protestant guest house. It is as beautiful as a museum in Paris and with a rich history and yes - it also has a department for dialysis and a ward for cancer patients.
Palestinian children do not have a hospital in the territories that can assist them, so three or four times a week they go to Israel for treatment. They get up at four in the morning, in Yatta, Hebron, Jib or al-Bira, and together with their mother or father, sometimes in their arms, they pass through the checkpoint. Here are the Israeli volunteers waiting for them to take them to the hospital and later in the day return them. And so I set out on my own preparatory trip for Biden’s visit, from Bethlehem to Augusta Victoria.
All along the gleaming road the flags of the United States and Israel waved; traffic was terrible and Waze took us through Abu Tor and Silwan, through the Offel road and Wadi Jouz. It took at least 40 minutes. The sick children fell asleep on the back seat and I thought how could it be that over all the many years of the occupation of the West Bank, and throughout the reign of the Palestinian Authority, they failed to establish a proper dialysis unit in Bethlehem and Ramallah for the benefit of these children? What about the physical and mental anguish of the children? And the waste of time for parents who are exhausted by the burden of earning a living?
So Mr Biden, after flying from Bethlehem to Augusta Victoria, I expect you to inform the Palestinians and the Israelis that if they want further economic assistance they should immediately set up dialysis units and cancer wards for children who are stuck on the road. No excuses will be accepted.
Until then, for those of you who live in Jerusalem, despite the siege, know that there is an urgent need for volunteers to maintain the daily effort to help the Palestinian children. Visit www.humans-without-borders.org and be impressed. Already next week there are quite a few children who require volunteer drivers to take them to Augusta Victoria, Shaare Zedek, or Hadassah.
From Time to Time is a weekly broadcast that Elizaer Yaari delivers every Friday afternoon on Kan radio, Reshet Bet. This piece was aired on July 15 2022.