Muhammad in Gaza

A 10-year old boy undergoing periodic hospitalization for anticancer treatment in Jerusalem away from his family

[Original by Yoriko YAMAMURA, Palestine Project (January 10, 2019); Translated by M. Kanai/S. Altman]

Hello. My name is Yamamura and I’m serving as a representative at the JVC Jerusalem Office. Today, I would like to introduce an article written by Ms. Hiromoto who’s working as an assistant in our office.

About half a year ago, we received an urgent message from a woman who’s a member of an organization collaborating with JVC in our operation in the Gaza Strip about her relative, Muhammad. He was to be admitted to a hospital in East Jerusalem for cancer treatment and needed assistance for his hospitalization.

With the help of Samira, a lady in her 60’s who lives nearby our office, we rushed to the hospital in the midst of the month of Ramadan (the Islamic month of fasting). On the following day, we asked Samira to kindly deliver basic daily necessities to Muhammad such as food, shampoo, and soap since she owns a car. The price of commodities in Jerusalem is more than twice the price in Gaza. Therefore, it is quite difficult for a Gaza Palestinian with only the barest necessities to procure necessary items for hospitalization in Jerusalem.

Muhammad is from Beit Hanoun, the area most heavily attacked in the Gaza war. Before hospitalization, he was said to be a bright student with an excellent school record. JVC local staff and Samira who used to be involved in assistance activities in Gaza, have subsequently come to make periodic visits to the hospital.

What follows is an article written by Ms. Hiromoto about our friendship with Muhammad:

I met Muhammad for the first time in June 2018 around the end of Eid al-Fitr following the Ramadan fasting month. He was staying in a hospital in East Jerusalem to undergo anticancer drug treatment for colorectal cancer. I went to see Muhammad at the hospital together with Ms. Yamamura and Samira. He greeted us with shy smile and told us about his family and his favorite Japanese animation cartoon Detective Conan in spite of feeling unpleasant due to the drug’s side effects. He also played earnestly with the toys we brought which were donated by a 2 -year old Japanese girl. Watching him, I could not help but wonder how bored he had been with nothing to play with in his hospital room.

Muhammad was taken care of by a middle-aged woman named Sharife who was neither his mother nor grandmother. She was his father’s other wife. Since polygyny is allowed under the Islamic law, his father has two wives.

Gaza residents cannot enter Jerusalem without special permission from the Israeli government. Permission is not likely to be granted for those younger than 45 years old with no specific reasons for entry such as treatment of serious illness or job assignments at an international organization. As a consequence, Sharife was taking care of Muhammad in place of his mother who is younger than 45.

During the hospitalization, Muhammad was separated from his parents and siblings. With his parents at his side, I’m sure that he would be able to face the tough treatment in better mental condition. On the other hand, Sharife also has to spend many weeks away from her own children in a hospital that is located inconveniently on a hill.

On our way home, Samira told me that Muhammad who is grown-up for his age with an independent mind, was crying the whole time during the Eid holiday. It was not only because he was unable to take Iftar (the evening meal that breaks each day’s fast during Ramadan) together with his family but also because he had to stay in hospital during the Eid holiday, too. Unlike Muhammad, children from East Jerusalem and the West Bank were allowed a temporary return to their home to spend the Eid holiday with their family.

Our visit to Muhammad at the hospital once again reminded us of the repercussions that the Israeli occupation and blockade would have on the life of the Palestinian people. Even now, Muhammad goes to the hospital in East Jerusalem once a month from Gaza to receive anticancer drug treatment away from his family. He kept getting better and then worse again for a while. However, lately his condition is moving towards healing. We are praying for his quick recovery and return to school. We hope that Muhammad will be able to spend a happy time together with his family during the Eid holiday next year.

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