We here in the US find ourselves in the midst of one of the worst outbreaks of the flu ever recorded. Many children and the aged have died resulting from the complications associated with this year’s strain of influenza. The other day, my youngest child, Omar, came down with a very high fever and vomiting. He was lethargic and could not keep down any food. My wife took his temperature and was shocked to learn that it was hovering around 103. We patted him down with cold wet towels and tried to break the fever, but to no avail. It was in the middle of the night when I decided that we should not wait any longer and that I should take him to the Emergency room for urgent care.
Once I decided to take him to seek urgent medical care, I then had to decide to where I should take him. I had the option of taking him to not one, but several area hospitals and clinics that were open 24 hours and were all within a short drive from my home. This was a luxury that comes with living in the US. I got him dressed and we jumped in my car at 2 AM. Less than 10 minutes later, we arrived at St. Joseph’s Hospital’s urgent care facility. There, the emergency room doctors checked him out, took some cultures for testing, and gave him some medicine. They also prescribed some antibiotics for him to take for the next 5 days. I was able to get the prescription filled at the 24 hour Pharmacy and we were home less than 3 hours after we had left.
When we arrived at home, I put my wife’s mind at ease, assuring her of what the doctors told me, that this was just a virus, and that he should be feeling much better by morning. We were both very relieved and thankful that he was going to be alright as well as the fact that we lived in a part of the world where something as simple as taking a child for medical care, is taken for granted. I did not have to think twice about jumping in my car and taking my son to seek medical care no matter the time or destination.
All of this made me think of my son’s relatives and peers who live under Israel’s brutal occupation, curfews, life choking checkpoints and road blocks. I could not help but think of the Palestinian mothers and fathers who have to endure the gut wrenching agony of watching their children suffer in pain, and not be able to help them nor relieve that suffering. How must a Palestinian father, who lives under these inhumane conditions, feel as he watches helplessly while his child cries out in pain? How is it that a routine trip to the emergency room, which should take but a few moments, turns into a lengthy and arduous, life threatening adventure through humiliating checkpoints and road blocks? What do Israelis and Israel gain from such inhumane treatment of Palestinian people and their children? How is Israel’s security enhanced by subjugating Palestinian mothers and fathers to these humiliations and barriers that do nothing more than breed yet more hatred and resentment?
I don’t know what I would have done or how I would have reacted if I was prevented from venturing out of my home due to the imposition of curfews that are meant to imprison whole towns and villages. What would have I done if I could not travel the few miles to the emergency room due to the road blocks and checkpoints set up throughout my neighborhood and small Township that I live in? What would I have said to the soldiers that sat there oblivious to my son’s pain as they made me wait? All of these thoughts were going through my mind as I tried to sleep that night.
While in Palestine last summer, I heard of many stories of parents being prevented from taking their ill children through roadblocks and checkpoints. Many Palestinians have died after either being refused passage or being delayed at these checkpoints and road blocks. Also, there is ample documentation from the Israeli Human Rights Organization, B’Tselem; of these abuses at www.btselem.org .I also witnessed firsthand the humiliating images of parents, pleading in vain to the unfeeling and uncaring Israeli soldiers so that they may be allowed the ‘luxury’ of passing through the checkpoints to take their children to see a doctor. I could not get these images out of my head as I sat there in bed contemplating the night’s events.
Being a parent, I have always thought of myself, and my children look up to me, as their protector and guarantor of their safety and well being. There is nothing in this world that I wouldn’t do, as I am sure, any good parent, for the sake of my children’s well being. To stand by helpless, as my child suffered needlessly, for no other reason than being of ‘another’ religion or race, would be absolutely devastating to me, as I am sure it is to those Palestinian mothers and fathers who must endure these cruel and inhumane practices. This is something that few Israelis ever see and will never have to go through since their status as Jews affords them preferential treatment, complete with Jewish only settlements, roads, hospitals, and medical treatment even though they live in the midst of the very same Palestinians who are denied such basic human rights.
As an American, I am proud and very grateful to live in a country where something as simple as taking a sick child to an emergency room, can be done so easily and without any thought or hindrances. Yet, also as an American, I am also ashamed and disgusted that my government supports and bankrolls such an abusive and racist country as Israel, whereby something as simple as taking a sick child to seek medical attention, becomes a humiliating and oppressive experience.