Left: Abu Nidal (left) and Fawzi in the nurses' changing room.
The government hospital, al-Alia, reopened, so the ER is slow now. Fawzi and Abu Nidal discussed a whole range of issues today while there was nothing to do: the occupation, homosexuality, sex, women, etc. Abu Nidal represents what you might call an enlightened point of view, while Fawzi is more of a reactionary. Abu Nidal kept insisting to Fawzi that the situation here isn’t impossible, that there are some good things about being Palestinian (“at least we don’t have homeless here, look at how many homeless there are in Israel and even in America!” Abu Nidal is the eternal optimist: to him a nation made up almost entirely of homeless refugees, including him, is a society without a homelessness problem.), etc. Fawzi insisted that the situation is rotten and terrible and ran through every reason why: everything is too expensive to afford, the hospital doesn’t pay him enough, he has ten children to take care of, his wife is demanding, etc.
The conversation was in typical Semitic style: lots of fake shouting, but only immediately after the conversation ends do you realize the shouting was fake. Afterwards Abu Nidal and I were sitting alone on the couch in the ER office, their equivalent of the trauma pit. He was thinking to himself, and then quietly and without looking at me said “The main problem here is that there is no freedom. It's like living in a prison, really. Every day I go home, I wait maybe one hour for the soldier to let me pass, and I go home. That’s it. There are no facilities for anything else. In Texas you can play a game, you can go to swim, you can go to the bar even, you can do anything. But here we can’t. Really yani, there is no freedom.”
A sweet six-month-old girl came in after her older brother accidentally dropped her. Her mom was worried her arm might be broken, but she was fine.
Today we saw three of what the doctors here call “quarrel cases”, fights. The first was a mother who said she had been thrown to the floor by her son. Abu Nidal made a good point after we saw her: “Don’t be judgmental. I made that mistake, many years ago. A woman came in because her shoulder was hurting, she said a man had thrown her to the floor.
“Then, some hours later, a man came with a knife wound, just here [he pointed to his flank]. He said he was put in a room by a woman with some men who were going to kill him, and he only got out by throwing the woman at the floor so he could open the door. And when the woman saw him she started screaming and throwing things at him, we had to restrain her, really! So don’t be judgmental.”
The next quarrel case was a young woman married to a much older man who’d beaten her up. Not like how husbands sometimes beat their wives nearly to death in the US, but he had obviously hit her several times. He also forcibly cut her hair. The doctors took x-rays as evidence for the police. The third case was a man, maybe in his late forties or early fifties with bronchial asthma after having been sprayed in the face with some sort of aerosol. Both were physically fine, just a little shaken up. I think the woman stayed in the hospital until the police could come. Whether or not they’ll actually do anything, I have no idea.