Tuesday, June 8, 2010

An accompanier writes about Qalandiya Checkpoint

Kathy Preuss, an accompanier through EAPPI writes her blog, "Witness4peacetoday" at this link: http://witness4peace.wordpress.com/"

EAPPI is the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel, a project of the World Council of Churches - www.eappi.org

Recently Kathy spent the day around Qalandiya checkpoint and wrote for her blog. Here is her afternoon report.

"Qalandiya Checkpoint PM" - http://witness4peace.wordpress.com/2010/05/27/qalandiya-checkpoint-pm/

It’s 4pm, and I’m back again.

A Muslim woman, who speaks only Arabic, approaches me. A kind man offers to translate between us. She presents medical papers regarding her daughter who is inpatient in a Tel Aviv hospital. The mother is in the West Bank attempting to obtain the proper paperwork to enter Israel to see her daughter. She started this journey at 10am, waited in lines to be told she needed to be in different lines and finally ended up at Qalandiya. Once at Qalandiya, she learns the permit line was closed. She pauses and then starts crying.

I tell her I’m going to make calls. The mission is clear: help this woman get her permit to see her daughter in Tel Aviv. We move to the side, and my first call is to the humanitarian hotline. After being disconnected several times, I’m ultimately transferred to the Deputy Commanding Officer, the head guy, of Qalandiya. To my utter amazement, he was polite and even-tempered. He listened and advised me what needed to happen next, which was send her to another location (the next town over) to pick up the permit. Strangely enough he didn’t have the phone or address of this new place.

Plan B: call my boss, Pauline.

Pauline is amazing! Within 5 minutes, Pauline learned the permit was ready. I pass the phone back to the mother, and as she listens to Pauline, I see her whole body relax. Pauline was also able to provide the address and phone number to the mother. The mother gives the phone back to me, and in perfect English says “Thank you.” At the risk of breaking cultural norms, I give her a hug. She held me so tight. Language didn’t matter at that moment. Since arriving here in Palestine, there have been several occasions where I’ve felt completely helpless and ineffective. But in a short 45 minutes, I like to think my efforts made a difference.

So I tell you this story for several reasons.

*This is why EA’s go to checkpoints

*All this mother wanted to do was see her daughter in the hospital, and she hit many obstacles.

*If you really think about it, why is there a humanitarian hotline? (I view it as an admittance of a flawed system.)

*Imagine yourself in this mother’s place. How would you feel?

*This woman’s experience is common.

The next day I asked someone from the main office to follow up with the mother. It was learned the mother in fact did get the permit. Unfortunately the permit is for three days only, and her daughter is in the hospital for 14 days. And the mother asks, “What to do?”

Here’s what I can do! I can tell her story, share her humanness with the world. Because when you think about it, she’s just like you and me. This story will be part of my advocacy when I return to the States. This is what I can do!

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