UM AL ASAFIR, JERUSALEM
Photos by Patrick Zoll, 2012
The construction of the West Bank Barrier has left about 1,500 West Bank ID card holders on the ‘Jerusalem’ side.
One such community is Um Al Asafir, where residents face access restrictions to their health and other services which are located on the ‘West Bank’ side of the Barrier.
We met Ala’ Zawahri, who has mental and physical disabilities, in 2010, when she was eight years old.
Living in a house trapped between Har Homa settlement and the Barrier, her parents have to make an arduous journey to Bethlehem or to Beit Sahur to obtain medical services for their daughter.
❝Just last week, ❞ her mother told us, ❝we needed to bring Ala’ to the doctor. She cannot speak, but when she cries, we know something is wrong, because usually she is very quiet.
❝When she was little, we could drive to Bethlehem or Beit Sahur in less than 15 minutes. That was before the Barrier was built just outside our home. Now we have to find a taxi driver who actually comes here, to drive us to Gilo checkpoint.
❝We then cross on foot carrying Ala’ in our arms. Then we take another taxi to the clinic or hospital. All together 45 shekels one way. Most of the time, this takes one to one-and-a half hours.
❝Ala’ cannot eat by herself, she cannot even sit up. Most of the time she just lies quietly on her couch. She needs constant care and the doctor says that she will need it all her life.
❝Here, where we live, there is no care for Ala’ at all, no doctor, no mobile clinic. Nobody supports us in taking care of her. About 100 metres from here, in the Israeli settlement, there is everything. But we are not allowed to go there. We have West Bank ID cards, although we live on the Jerusalem side of the Barrier.
❝We have repeatedly tried to register Ala’ for health insurance, but without success. Fifty-three members of our family live here in Um Al Asafir – nobody has health insurance...
❝A friendly doctor in Bethlehem used to treat Ala’ for free❞ her mother added. ❝But he died. Now we not only have to pay for transport and medicine, but for doctors’ visits too. All in all, over 500 shekels since last year.
❝We have six other children. They are older and live with relatives in Beit Sahur on the other side of the Barrier in order to go to school and university easily.
❝From the hill outside our house we can see where they stay – but in order to visit their handicapped sister Ala’, they need to make the long journey through the checkpoint.❞