Birzeit University

Today began with Day 4 in the UNRWA clinic at the Am’ari refugee camp. I met Dr. Hoda, a great teacher in the fast-paced clinic. When, as usual, she took a moment to answer her phone, Harb and I tag-teamed the new patient that came in and decided he had Osgood-Schlatters. Nailed it. I ended up being heavily caffeinated with the amount of tea and ahuweh arabie (Turkish coffee) I downed during our many short breaks. Dr. Halu gave us lunch, again, and chased coffee lady out of the break room because he is the only one who has a problem with the staff smoking indoors.

In the afternoon, we visited Birzeit University on invitation from Harb’s Uncle Ghasan (Gus), the Dean of the School of Law. We met with the Deans of Public Health and Nursing to discuss their respective programs. The conversation with the Deans of Public health was particularly candid. Their program is actively involved in both epidemiology research and developing standards of clinical care for the region. They asked what our personal reasons were for coming, and what kind of communities we came from, and what the view of Palestinians was in our corner of America. As often happens in our interactions with educated and involved Palestinians, the conversation turned to politics.

Soapbox: I am fairly true to the stereotype of the highly educated and relatively young. That is to say, I are more liberal leaning, particularly in the areas of foreign policy and social issues. The problem is that this doesn’t make me a great representative of the American majority. It’s hard for me to explain how the varied views of Americans average out to general fear of Islamic Arabs. I can only commiserate with the hardships these people experience. And apologetically acknowledge that my government’s foreign policy actions have enabled the behavior of Israel. We will get a great opportunity to see the other side of the issue when we visit Jerusalem and Hadassah hospital next week.

As Dr. Ahbet said today, “We are growing accustomed to our suffering.” Palestinians like Dr. Ahbet live with the day-to-day hardship of trying to live in Jerusalem and work outside Jerusalem. This is a highly educated man who works daily to improve the public health of his country. The Israeli security measures and road closures are just a part of the policies that seem designed to make living and working in Jerusalem so uncomfortable for Palestinians that they give up and leave. But how can you prove such a claim? Nothing is simple when two groups of people, separated by language, culture, and religion, both claim the same small strip of land as their home. End Soapbox.

Harb and I went out to meet Sa’ed and Hannah and their friends for dinner that night. I keep being surprised by Thursday ending the work week here.


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