I don’t usually publish here testimonies that are not my own. I overlooked this self-imposed rule when I published Daphne’s testimony, and today I am doing it again. I just finished written this testimony by Edna. I called her right away, and asked her permission to publish it.
When I have an incoming call on my mobile from a 059 number, I answer apprehensively.
059 is Jawwal’s area code, the Palestinian brand of mobiles. 059 is a call from a Palestinian, and it will always be a call reporting trouble that happened or trouble that is about to happen. And the most annoying is when someone calls and thinks that I will save him, unaware that I have good will much more than I have power.
This 059 call was from Mazen in Gaza. Amira’s father. I met Mazen and his daughter Amira two years ago, when she was an 11-year old, hospitalized in Tel Ha-Shomer (Israeli hospital). She had a gigantic tumor in her thigh, it was removed, and she was in plaster all over from her hip and below. Her father is educated, a teacher, speaks fluent Hebrew. A pretty girl, bored and in pain. I brought her embroideries, beads and sewing material. I hung above her bed a funny monkey on a spring. She banged it feebly with anger. Eventually they went back to Gaza, and once he called me to say that she needs to go back to the hospital, but security services will only allow the mother accompany the girl, not the father. The father became dangerous. The father is not allowed to enter. The mother has six more children to look after. The mother can’t carry Amira from place to place, at the checkpoint, at the hospital. And certainly you can’t send the girl alone, without accompaniment. All attempts to arrange an accompaniment by the father were of no avail, and he gave up the checkup.
Now, he says, now her condition is worse. The hospital in Gaza diagnosed two lumps in her chest. She coughs all the time and has high fever. Ramallah won’t give a financial guarantee. They told him to go to Egypt. He was stopped at Rafah. He was not allowed to leave, and he has no-one to turn to. You’re the last person I know that can help me. Please help me. How awful it is to be someone’s last resort. This was Thursday afternoon. I called Suha from the Peres Center for Peace. I left twenty-two messages. When I called Physicians for Human Rights I actually got through to someone, but they said they’ll be able to take care of it only on Sunday. Friday I went on a field trip to the Hermon, up north. There was snow and flowers that had names of snakes and a wild boar that almost run over Natan. Amira was with me the whole weekend.
Sunday morning I got through to Suha from the Peres Center. The girl is going to die, I told her. She can’t wait for an answer from Egypt. Tumors in the chest is no joking matter. Another twenty-two phone-calls to the Peres Center for Peace and to Physicians for Human Rights. Around noon Suha called and said they got the guarantee. She sent the guarantee to Tel Ha-Shomer. The fax at Tel-Ha-Shomer didn’t receive the guarantee Suha said she sent. I gave my credit card number as a guarantee. My husband’s going to kill me. I asked the hospital to send the appointment quickly to Suha, so she can arrange for entry permits to Israel. Suha promised to arrange the permit by this Thursday.
Gaza is a different planet. In Israel, a father of a child with two lumps in his chest cuts through red lights on his way to the hospital. In Gaza, after this odyssey of pleas, he still needs to wait another five days to receive treatment.
Mazen called again this afternoon. I apologize for being such a nuisance, he said. Is he a nuisance to me, I thought to myself, my country is putting a siege on him. Starves him, bombs him, lets his children die, and he thinks he’s being a nuisance. I’ll come pick you up from the checkpoint, I told him. No, he said, that’s not the problem. I want you to ask Suha a request, please ask her to arrange for me to accompany her, not her mother. Maybe God won’t be on our side and the girl’s condition won’t be good. Maybe she will, you know, God have mercy on her, and I don’t want her mother to see her like that. Please arrange for me to be with her and not her mother. He didn’t say “death” explicitly. But he said “death” in ten different ways. He doesn’t want her mother to see her dying.
Genesis 21, the cast out of Hagar and Ishmael: “then she cast the child under one of the bushes, and she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot; for she said, ‘Lest I look on the death of the child.’ And she lifted up her voice and wept.”