‘Would you like to see the boy?’ ‘Yes’, I said.
There were just two of the children left on the wards at Makassed Hospital who had been brought there from Gaza during the war. The others had all gone home. ‘What was home?’ In many case the authorities at the hospital weren’t sure. ‘They’ve brought in porta-cabins. There are still lots of families living in schools’. As for ongoing care, some of the children come back to Makassed in East Jerusalem for appointments with the agreement of the Israeli authorities. But who was helping the many amputees with rehab? And the families where every second member had lost a limb? Local services, if such things existed. There were no good words about Hamas.
They took me to see Ihab. His brother had been killed in the same explosion which had so badly injured him. It was explained to me that he’d been accepted at the outstanding Re’uth Rehabilitation Hospital in Tel Aviv, where his cousin was already receiving treatment. Her family had somehow managed to get insurance payments for her care. But no one was willing to foot the (large) bill for the boy. In the midst of it all, his uncle arrived (the parents were apparently not allowed into Israel to accompany their son). He’d just launched an appeal on Palestinian radio, but meanwhile the Authority had lost all the boy’s papers.
‘We also sent out an appeal’, said Rami Elchanan of the Bereaved Families Forum, but so far no one had contributed. ‘What about asking people to pay for just one day’, I wondered. The idea was well received: ‘Yes “Pay a day”.’
I went into the room where Ihab lay. I’m always hesitant about visiting people in hospital in case I should be disturbing them or their family. ‘Don’t worry’, I was reassured. ‘He isn’t conscious.’
Ihab lay flat on his bed, a tube connected to his trachea, through which he breathed. The first thing which struck me was his golden hair. Then his eyes. They moved; he was most certainly aware. They expressed an utter, helpless suffering. A small cry came from him. These were all the means at his disposal to communicate an unreachable, unspeakable pain. It seemed he had at present no movement in the rest of his injured body. I looked at him and thought, ‘What would I want if that was my child?’
What does one do? I left the room and whispered to Rami, ‘I’ll take the first day’. Tomorrow I want to go to Reuth Hospital to see his cousin and speak with the doctors. Apparently there’s a lot they can do for Ihab. Maybe there can be some arrangement about the costs.
It’s just possible that this could be a moment of shared healing, Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Arabs together. Could it help heal more than Ihab’s lonely sufferings? I wondered. ‘Maybe someday’ I was told.