Israeli doctor makes house calls to Palestinians
Wadi Nis, West Bank – As Dr. Yitzchak Glick drives through the steep streets of this West Bank village of some 1000 residents, he is repeatedly stopped by Palestinians residents. Some just want to say hello and shake his hand. Others ask him to stop in and check on a family member.
Many of the Palestinians live in large homes, faced with white Jerusalem limestone that is quarried here and sold abroad. But some of the residents like Hosam, a father of six who asked not to give his last name, are poor. In his home, two adults and six children live in just two rooms.
“Please come and take a look at my daughter – just one minute,” Hosam, a father of six with a careworn expression begged Glick.
Ba’ayan, a severely disabled girl, lay in a crib, her limbs twisted and her face disfigured. She is severely retarded and, at 15, she is the size of a toddler.
Glick make an appointment for Ba’ayan to see a pediatric neurologist in nearby Efrat, a Jewish community built on land Israel acquired in 1967, although he later said he doubts there is much that can be done for Ba’ayan. Glick established the Efrat Emergency Medical Center in 2000, at the height of the second Palestinian uprising. The center provides urgent care to some 50,000 residents of the area. About five percent of the patients are Palestinians.
Glick comes to this Palestinian village about twice a week on a strictly volunteer basis.
“I think there’s a tremendous value in interaction between Israelis and Palestinians here,” he told The Media Line. “I’m living here for over 20 years and we see ourselves as here to stay. We recognize they’re here to stay. I want to get to a situation where we learn to know each other and respect each other to the utmost.”
Some 70,000 Jewish residents live in this bloc of communities called Gush Etzion along with some 18,000 Palestinians and 75,000 in nearby Bethlehem. These Jewish communities are within the Israeli “consensus,” meaning most Israelis believe these communities will remain part of Israel even after a peace agreement with the Palestinians. Palestinians say that Gush Etzion, along with all of the West Bank, must be part of the future Palestinian state, although they are willing to consider some land swaps.
Whatever the future, Israelis and Palestinians intermingle here, at the local grocery store, at the garage, and at the hardware store.
Raed, who works at the hardware store and speaks fluent Hebrew, says his clientele is about evenly split between Israelis and Palestinians.
“We like anyone who likes us,” he told The Media Line. “There are a lot of good people on both sides.”
These kinds of relationships between Jews who live in post-1967 communities and Palestinians used to be common before the first intifada, or Palestinian uprising, which began in 1987. Since then, they have almost ceased. According to Israeli law, it is illegal for an Israeli to enter Area A, the 20 percent of the West Bank that is under full Palestinian control. Large red signs warn Israelis of the danger.
Since the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers from a bus stop just a few miles from here last June, the tensions have increased even more. Glick says that some of his neighbors have stopped employing Palestinians to work as electricians or plumbers in their homes.
“Anytime a serious terror event occurs anywhere, there’s an increase in tension. Being that the kidnapping occurred right here in the center of Gush Etzion, it’s devastating, frustrating and painful for all of us,” Glick said. “There are definitely families who say, “Why should I hire a Palestinian plumber when I can hire a Jewish one?”
But he says he will continue to see his Palestinian patients, many of whom have become his friends. Twelve years ago, he says, at the height of the Palestinian intifada against Israel, a Palestinian family brought a very sick baby to the gate of Efrat, the community of almost 10,000 where he lives with his wife and four of their children. (A fifth child is married.) The Israeli security officer called Glick, who rushed to the gate of the community. He took one look at the baby, who had a very high fever and was in sepsis, and drove the baby to Bethlehem hospital, where he recovered.
The family lives in the village of Jarta Shama. Musa, the father of the family is in a wheelchair, after a construction accident in Israel. Despite months of rehabilitation in Israel, he still does not walk or speak. Yusuf, the sick baby, is now a teenager.
Musa warmly welcomes Glick with hugs and kisses. The entire family comes out to say hello and offers tea. One of the daughters, Fatima, has just finished medical school in Egypt. She is set to begin working in a Ramallah hospital. She says the atmosphere since the kidnapping has been tense.
“The army has been around here much more and they have arrested a lot of people,” she told The Media Line. Like other Palestinians here, she did not want to use her last name, afraid she would be tagged as a “collaborator” with Israel because of her relationship with Glick. “Every day the army is searching here and destroying things. I don’t agree with the kidnapping – I don’t know why they did that. Everything was good here, but now...” Her voice trails off in frustration.
Many Palestinians see Glick and all of the approximately 70,000 Jewish residents of Gush Etzion, as “settlers” who have come to steal the Palestinian land of the West Bank. Glick says he personally supports an independent Palestinian state, but in only part of the West Bank, an idea that would not be acceptable to the vast majority of Palestinians. He also said that each community in Judea and Samaria, using the Biblical names for the West Bank, should adopt a Palestinian community as Efrat has adopted Wadi Nis.
Glick’s last patient of the day is a pretty pert three-year-old girl who slipped on gravel and has a bad scrape on her face.
“Will she have a scar?” her father Alaah asked Glick anxiously. “Don’t you have any cream to give her? I don’t want her to have a scar.”
The father then asks Glick for a ride to the junction near Efrat. As he approaches, Alaah says, “Keep going. Look at all of the soldiers here. If we get out now, they’re going to arrest us.”
Back in the village, dozens of Palestinian men and boys have finished one of the five daily prayers. As he walks out of the mosque, Nasser, the imam, stops to chat with Glick.
“Our Koran says that if someone needs help, you need to help him, even if he’s a Jew,” Nasser said.