Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

The Story of a Silenced Palestinian Nightingale

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

The Story of a Silenced Palestinian Nightingale

Article excerpt

Samah Jabr is a medical intern in her native city of Jerusalem.

If anyone was born to be a nurse, it was Rinad, my pleasant and compassionate head nurse colleague. A midwife, she has worked for the past 10 years in the obstetrics and gynecology department in one of East Jerusalem's hospitals, demonstrating daily her remarkable devotion to her humanitarian career and her strong sense of belonging to the community she serves.

Despite having to cross the various checkpoints that separate her little village, a suburb of Bethlehem, from besieged Jerusalem, there was not a single day when Rinad arrived at work late. She always knew how to find her way around the checkpoints, and would leave her home after the dawn prayer, giving herself enough time to trudge up and down the hills, across muddy and dusty streets, and reach her place of work on time.

Unlike many of us, Rinad's reservoirs of joy and patience didn't get consumed on the way to work. She was always calm--and calming. In fact, it was sometimes difficult for me to accept her over-easy-going, pacifist demeanor.

When I last saw Rinad before leaving for vacation abroad, I congratulated her on getting married. She looked even calmer, happier and more beautiful than usual.

When I returned to work a month later, however, a different Rinad awaited me. I was astonished by the disappearance of the welcoming smile and her optimistic spirit that always spread hope in the hearts of our patients and repeatedly renewed the energy of those who worked closely with her.

The change in Rinad was so frightening that I was reluctant to approach her directly at first. Her friends told me that Rinad's husband, Issa Abu-A'ahour, was among the couple of hundred people who had sought shelter April 2 in Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity. While Rinad was in Jerusalem at work, Issa, along with others in his neighborhood, fled the invading Israeli forces to the city of Bethlehem. Only 13 days after their marriage, Issa's fate hung between the peaceful sanctuary of the church and the bullets of the Israeli snipers surrounding it.

Finally, after the six-week-long siege of the church was over, Issa and 39 other Palestinian men--so-called "terrorists"--were expelled either to Gaza or to Europe. Isaa was expelled from his native city of Bethlehem to Gaza, without even having the chance to say goodbye to his wife.

While international news programs refer to U.S.- and EU-sponsored "negotiations" between Israeli and Palestinian delegations that resulted in an "agreement," a "resolution" to the siege, and an official Palestinian approval of the transfer, everyone on the Palestinian street--from professors to falafel shop owners--quietly considers the PA's approval of transferring Palestinian activists a cheap sellout. We know that only a free people--not a besieged authority--can negotiate a meaningful agreement.

One of our most cardinal and legitimate demands is the right of return--to which the PA's approval of this transfer arrangement stands in severe contradiction. Nor does it even take into account the lack of consideration of the deal's repercussions for those 40 exiled Palestinians and the people who love them.

Israel, whose existence is based on the expulsion of a nation from the lands of their parents, is reasserting its essential exploitative nature. In the Israeli Knesset, parliament members continue to talk both in secret and publicly about transferring Palestinians to other Arab nations. …

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