Monday, July 2, 2007

The Adventure Continues

July 2, 2007
The adventure continues
Grace and peace to you from the land of Jesus. Our second week whizzed by very fast filled with ‘naughty and nice’ things. Nice things first.
Esther : What would you expect 10 years old Bushra and 15 years old Miriam to do in the summer holidays? You assume that they will play soccer or go on vacation, right? No these two girls and about 10 more children like them, make trips to the hospital three days a week in the special hospital bus from West bank going thru harassment at check points. They bravely hold out their hands to be pricked by needles and lie down in the bed for 4 hours for dialysis. They joke with the nurses and kid around like any normal children. Esther spent volunteer time twice last week with the children at the Dialysis center. Esther made friends with them, played games, read books and dressed them up in sarees to the delight of their parents and staff. She will continue that next three weeks.

Esther organized a small group fellowship with the help of the German pastor Michael and the first meeting was held in the historic100 year-old Ascension church in the campus. We sang choruses and hymns; John led the devotions with the theme “ Called by God.” Esther gave her Faith story and we had communion service as a climax. Esther has taught the caretaker Ibrahim’s son Eloy how to play checkers. So she encourages him to talk in English, as they play checkers every day. The next two days, she will be busy cooking Indian food for the German café.

John: Augusta Victoria Hospital hosted an International conference on June 28th and 29th. The meetings lasted from 8:30 in the morning till 6:30 in the evening. Delicious Palestinian meals were provided. The main topics were Diabetes and Oncology. It was an impressive production and presentation by local Physicians as well as Arab American doctors and Physicians for Peace members from the U.S. Because of the conference, there was no surgery on Thursday. So John worked only three days. However, he managed to perform a thyroid operation and had another chest surgery consult. John tried his hands at the weekly, Volley ball game but many women were concerned that he will injure his surgeon’s fingers. But he assured them that they were insured by “Lloyds of London”. Some actually believed him. Ha ha ha. The Hospital is also playing host to the Jerusalem summer concert series today at the hospital amphitheater.

Let us explain the ‘naughty’ thing we did. We ventured into the famous / notorious West Bank: We went there twice and experienced Israeli checkpoint many times. On Sunday the 24th, we traveled to Beit Jalla, a town adjoining Bethlehem. Most of the Palestinians live in the West Bank and Gaza strip. But there are Palestinians living in East Jerusalem and others come into the Israeli territory to work and trade. They have to cross only at checkpoints in between the walls with special permits. (The ELCA has a good description of this. ) Permits are issued for three months at a time. Most of the doctors and staff who work here have such permits and yet they get delayed at the checkpoints. The patients who come to Augusta Victoria Hospital from the West Bank need these permits but at times, are denied with no reason. Of the 10 cases scheduled for the next week, but only four show up. The rest did not get permission to come.
However, there is a lot of cooperation between the two Medical communities. Several Israeli consultants come to our hospital. Our Residents and Fellows rotate through Haddassah Hospital, the best in the country.
The Palestinian city bus we were traveling was stopped at checkpoint and everyone had to disembark. Armed military police go in with Uzzis and check the interior. Then they check our IDs and let us get back in. In our case, they questioned a few elderly men and women and children for 45 minutes! They had the right ID. Such is life.
We had a wonderful time visiting with Rev. John Setterlund, an ELCA Pastor in Beit Jalla. The Church also has a boarding house for boys who are from difficult family situations or refugees. John says, “I have no children, but now I have 45 grandchildren”. They love him and he shares the love of Christ with them by word and deed. He also has a ministry of teaching music to students in Beit Jalla including a blind woman. So that was our first adventure into the West Bank. We saw him again on Wednesday at the Rotary meeting in Jerusalem. The Rotarians were very friendly and welcoming. We exchanged Rotary flags.

Our trip this Sunday July 1st was to Hebron, again in the West Bank, but it was unplanned. We went to the English language service at the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem. John was asked to be the Communion Assistant. The guest Pastor from the Reformed Church gave a very good sermon. We met Esther and Janet after the service. Janet is from Scotland and Esther is from the U.S. They belong to a group called C.P.T. (Christian Peacemaker Teams) They offer organized non-violent alternatives to war and conflicts all over the world. Some of you may remember CPT worker Fox was kidnapped and murdered in Iraq last year.
We traveled by bus with them to Hebron. It seems, they were invited by the Mayor of Hebron to come and help. International presence helps keep the harassment down. They also write reports. We had coffee at the “Resistance cafe’ while a patrol of six Israeli soldiers with machine guns walked by! In Hebron, we visited the tombs of the Biblical Matriarchs and Patriarchs (Abraham, Sarah etc.) which are laid in between a mosque and synagogue. We also shopped for the famous Hebron pottery. Thanks be to God for safe travel to the West Bank to see life as it is-Measures for the security of Israel and its effect on the Palestinians and the Israelis.
This ‘n that: The summer concert series “Sounding Jerusalem” is in full swing here. They use musicians and singers from all three faiths. We attended a concert in the courtyard of the Redeemer Lutheran church last Saturday. They featured a blind opera singer who read her music in Braille. We also found time for some sacred sightseeing. We prayed at the Western Wall, visited the picturesque Russian Chapel for Mary Magdalene and meditated at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. There is also a chapel called Dominus Flevit on the Mount of Olives where Jesus was supposed to have said, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often I wanted to gather your children as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings.” It has a majestic view of the city and we attended a service there with Swedish Orthodox church believers. They sang and chanted as they went down to the next holy sight. We felt like we were on pilgrimage with them.

Well. Another Sunday has come and gone. After three more Sundays, we will be back in US! Thanks for all your prayers. Esther Kamali and John Prabhu
P.S. We have placed some more pictures in the next blog. Visit and enjoy.

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