Ahli Arab Hospital
July 15, 2002
Intrview with Ms. Suhaila Tarazi

Executive Director, Ahli Arab Hospital

Gaza, Palestine
The Christian Mission Society (CMS) first opened Ahli Arab Hospital in 1882.  It became a service ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem in 1982.  During the first Intifada it was the only non-Israeli hospital run by Palestinians in Gaza, working with the community.  The hospital plays a huge role in the provision of general medical and surgical care and in prevention of illness and disability, to all people of the Gaza Strip.

The hospital has recently created a new Emergency Response Team within its internal organizational structure.  The hospital is situated in a highly populated area in which it is anticipated there will be heavy fighting, should Gaza be invaded by the Israeli military in the same manner in which the West Bank has been attacked.  Ahli has also been designated by the Ministry of Health as the first line recipient for overflow of casualties, after Shifa Hospital in Gaza City (a MOH hospital).  The Emergency Response Team is trained to react to a call for assistance within moments notice.

Ahli Arab Hospital is also involved in organizing medical outreach clinics that it brings to the neediest areas, working in conjunction with the local community.   A medical mission is comprised of approximately thirteen doctors, nurses, laboratory technicians, pharmacists and medical records clerks who provide assistance to those in need of health care services in the field.  The hospital is in the process of organizing a mission to the village of Al Mawasi. The village is located very near to an Israeli settlement and has been under a total siege for months.  The residents are required to obtain a permit from the Israeli military offices at the Eres border crossing many miles away in order to leave the village.  Entrance of all supplies, medications, people, visitors, and merchandise requires a similar permit.  The only health care services available to the 10,000 Al Mawasi residents are those provided by a simple primary health care clinic run by the government.  There are currently 400 women, children and men on our list of those urgently in need of health care.  The United Nations (UNRWA) provides services to refugees, and Al Mawasi does not qualify, as the residents are not refugees.   Ahli Arab Hospital will provide the personnel, and the local community provides the location.

Suhaila Tarazi, executive director of Ahli Arab Hospital comments, “to live under occupation and civil unrest is very hard.  So many times we are unable to receive medical and hospital supplies.  Everything is connected to the Israeli military forces and they can stop anything they want. They make no differentiation between humanitarian shipments such as medications and other supplies.  It is all tightly controlled and we spend hours working on receiving the things we need to care for those who come to Ahli – sometimes we succeed and sometimes we don’t.”

“A good example of this is the issue of pathology specimens. There is a serious shortage of well-trained pathologists in Gaza who can evaluate biopsies for cancer.  Last year, we sent the specimens to Makassed Hospital in Jerusalem, through the Palestinian Ministry of Health, after arranging for permission from the Israeli authorities.  Once every 3-4 weeks we were able to sent the specimens to Jerusalem. Recently the Israeli military has denied us even this, and required that we obtain a special permit from the Israeli minister of health.  Until now we have not succeeded in this.  Consequently, we have not been able to send out any pathological specimens for several months.  Imagine if you had a biopsy for cancer and were not able to have it evaluated.  There are ever increasing obstacles to providing the basics of health care to the people of our community.”

“Recently we received an ambulance donated by supporters in the US.  It took us three months before we were able to bring it across the checkpoint.  Eventually the company we purchased the ambulance from was required to remove all the equipment from the ambulance.  The ambulance itself was allowed to pass through the Eres crossing, while the equipment was required to pass through the Karni crossing, kilometers away.  What does this have to do with security?”

“After the Oslo accords were signed, I though that a page of hatred was finished.  Recently, I have discovered that this was just a way to drag the Palestinian National Authority into a trap, and keep all Palestinian areas under siege.  After the recent violence, all the infrastructure of our country has been destroyed or badly damaged.  Water, electricity, sewage, telephone lines, streets, buildings, schools, homes and offices.   Concurrently settlements have expanded, land has been razed, orchards demolished and much of our land confiscated.   We are completely closed off from the outside world. We cannot see friends and relatives who live in Jerusalem or the West Bank, in Israel, or the rest of the world.  Gaza has been severed into three pieces and it is almost impossible to visit friends and relatives who live in different parts of Gaza.  All the orchards near settlements have been uprooted.  The borders are closed, the sea is closed, the airport destroyed.  It is impossible to visit families a few streets over some days.  Many of our staff sleep at the hospital now as they are unable to travel the 5-6 hours it takes to cover 5 or 10 kilometers between home and work.”

“We are one large ghetto. Overall unemployment is above 60% and in villages like Al Mawasi, it has reached 95%.  Our economy is destroyed.    A small child has nothing to look to in the future.  It is often impossible for students and teachers to reach schools, which run in two or thee shifts as it is, in order to educate all the children. What is the future in this?  How are the human rights of these children respected?”

“We are living in uncertainty.  Nothing is predictable.  Any incident that happens in Israel, and all Palestinians pay the price.  We know that we will be attacked, whether we are at fault or not.  Peace without justice is not peace, and peace without human rights is not peace.”

“We cannot predict what will come in the future.  We hope that the suffering will end.  We hope the suffering will cease for all involved.  The Israelis are also victims.  They are the victims of the rigidity of their politicians and pay a high price.  The tears of all mothers are salty, whether Palestinian or Israeli.  There is no solution to the conflict except to sit around a table and negotiate.  Palestinians have the right to live on their own land in dignity as well as the Israelis.  The time is past for one party to rid the land of the other.  Arabs and Israelis are cousins, the children of Abraham.   There is no solution except to live together.  What the conflict has done to the Palestinians is a crime.  In the spirit of religion, there is more than enough land for all.  Instead of building bridges, bridges of trust and love, Sharon is building bridges of hatred, and impenetrable walls.”

“Ahli Arab Hospital is a place of love, real love in action. As Christians we must express this love to all people without discrimination.  This is the love of Jesus.  Jesus was a healer, and loved to help the needy, as we are called to do at Ahli.”

* Digital photos available upon request

Nancy Dinsmore
Development Office
Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem
P.O. Box 19122
Jerusalem 91191
Fax:  9722 627 3847

Email:  DevEdJer@netvision.net.il