02/09/2004, 00.00
israel - palestine
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The Wall and its consequences for ordinary citizens

A letter from Sr. Marie Dominique Croyal, director of Our Lady of Sorrows Rest Home

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – The Supreme Court of Israel is meeting today to verify the legality of building a wall between Israel and the Occupied Territories. The case was raised by a group of Israelis concerned about human rights. The group has criticized the wall's construction because it is (partly) built on Palestinian land.

For quite some time the Israeli government has committed itself to building a wall hundreds of kms along its defensive border in order to guarantee greater security to the country, which has been continuously hit by terrorist attacks.

Palestinians have criticized the wall, since it usurps part of their land and places their people in "ghetto" conditions. The UN has asked the Hague International Tribunal to issue a statement on the legality of the wall. A hearing has been set to take place at the Hague on Feb. 23.   

Yesterday Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Minster of Justice, Joseph Lapide, said the wall's course might be changed and shortened by hundreds of kilometers. 

Giora Eiland, Israel's National Security Council chief, said yesterday that "the project and the building of the wall have failed in terms of foreseeing its repercussions on the lives of innocent Palestinians" and added that it is now up to Israel to improve the situation "including, if necessary, changing the original course of the wall."

To shed light on how the wall affects the daily lives of ordinary citizens, Sr. Marie Dominique Croyal writes from Jerusalem to AsiaNews. The testimony comes from a nun and director of Our Lady of Sorrows Rest Home, belonging to a French order of nuns whose motherhouse is in Tarbes, just a few kilometers from Lourdes.   

Founded in (east) Jerusalem in 1955, the rest home cares for 52 elderly persons with the help of 4 nuns.  Their patients come from all creeds and denominations (5 of Islamic faith). Patients are mostly poor and disabled. Due to the disastrous state of the economy and political situation, many family members and relatives of patients cannot afford to pay the nuns, who must then take care of the expenses related to health care, hygiene and sustenance – even the purchasing of wheel chairs. Complicating the life of the community is a wall built just a few meters from their entrance, serving as an Israeli defensive barrier.       


Below is the letter sent by Sr. Marie Dominique to AsiaNews:


"I write to inform you of what is happening in our neighborhood and near our home. Since last Jan. 11 2004, construction has gotten underway for 9-meter high dividing wall.  

It is being built in the place of a smaller one, which was still possible to scale when there were no other authorized crossings for those traveling to Jerusalem from Bethany and Abu Dis. 

The first was a security wall erected in August 2002. This wall had made a mess of and deeply influenced both our lives and those of the rest of the population.   

It separates Jerusalem from West Bank, running along our street and passing right in front of our entry gate.

Thousands of people have already climbed over this wall: children, students, mothers carrying children and elderly people.

Many times people have fallen to their deaths. Two months ago, we called an ambulance to save a man around 65 years of age who had fallen from the wall headfirst and lost consciousness. The ambulance arrived a half an hour later and on its way to the hospital, upon reaching the crossroad for Bethany, it was searched by the army, who made the wounded man's wife get out of the vehicle –delaying his emergency treatment.

What is occurring at the very foot of this wall has become intolerable!

For days and months on end, hundreds of persons have crossed through our property, hopping its fence to escape from military controls and checks. Many of them work in Jerusalem, but do not have permits to do so.

People around us live in fear of getting arrested, of being hit by tear gas, of being mistreated –something which frequently occurs. There is constant tension felt by the entire population, whose conditions of life are ever the more miserable.

It is a daily battle for all these people suffering humiliation and violence. We feel alone and unprotected against in the face of widespread apathy.

We have become the spokespersons for all those who have no voice and who over the past two years have had to pass through a war zone just to get to work, school, etc. Not to mention all the sick who are dying due to lack of medical treatment.  

In order to carry out our mission we are finding it greatly difficult to take elderly people to the West Bank hospital. Palestinian ambulances are forbidden from driving in Israel. And so then it is up to us to find a way to accompany them there, across the wall, while avoiding check-points, so that relatives may lead them to the hospital.

The same problem goes for those who die. Relatives must "manage by their own means" to transport corpses from the other side of the wall. Life has been very complicated for two years now, and it will be even more so after the new wall is built. 

For months now elderly and able-bodied people cannot go shopping since all stores are located on the other side of the wall. How many times have I seen them glued to the wall as they place their orders to shopkeepers while speaking through cracks between cement blocks!

Elderly persons from the West Bank are extremely isolated, as their relatives cannot come to visit them. Since the wall was built, we've had to double surveillance in order to guarantee security to our elderly patients.

We have been forced to change our suppliers. This implies an increase in costs, since the cost of life in Jerusalem is much higher.

Now we know really what will happen if the construction of the wall is completed, since most elderly living in our rest home are from the West Bank—just like most of our staff. Out of our 18 employees, only 3 have a Jerusalem card (a permit authorizing them to move about freely in the city). Over the past 2 years, even they have been forced to scale the wall and change their daily course in order to escape from guards. Despite having a permit, military officials don't always allow then to enter our property.  

This 9-meter high wall will forces us to:

1)      hire staff from Jerusalem and thus lay off most of our current personnel;

2)      stop taking in elderly people living in West Bank, that is, those who are the poorest.

We are worried. Together with us there are thousands of people today living in anxiety as the wall is being built without any opposition or protest.

We were not even warned and our care center is more isolated than even due to the pitiful condition of the road. Moreover, each day we have rescue staff in various places, since the neighborhood has become a military zone.

Getting provisions has become a very complex task and we spend much of our time trying to deal with problems that pop up spontaneously. We hope we don't have to take elderly to hospitals, seeing as getting back to our rest home is made difficult due to heavy rains.   

This week many reporters and photojournalists have come to our neighborhood, which has become a land of desolation and humiliation. We all hope that interviews conducted by various newspapers, radio and television stations will reawake public opinion and the conscience of politicians.

Moreover, we all hope that you will speak out in our favor against this wall of shame, so that it will be demolished.

We are counting on your prayers so that leaders from both nations will begin talking again. We are counting on your action and we thank you in advance for wanting the spread such information.

Sr. Marie Dominique Croyal

Director of Our Lady of Sorrows Rest Home"
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