A man who is yet to recover from his surgery waited with his wife for a taxi to take them back home, to Gaza. It was freezing and they were both shivering.
Israeli soldiers didn’t allow just any taxi to take them home, but one that they would trust would indeed take them to the besieged Strip so that they would not stay in Israel or in the West Bank.
The soldiers ordered the couple to wait outside, where there was nothing to protect them from the rain and cold.
The rain kept falling and the woman kept covering her husband’s head with a handkerchief desperately trying to protect his face. It was impossible.
Then a girl named Mariam, 23 arrived with six other patients. They had finished their treatment in Hebron (Al-Khalil) and came to the Israeli Qalandiya military checkpoint seeking permit to go home to Gaza. Marian suffers from thyroid cancer.
Mariam directed my attention to a mother weeping on the Palestinian side of the checkpoint. The Gaza woman tried so desperately to be by her son’s hospital bed in East Jerusalem, but the Israeli army refused her request. She was going home leaving her gravely ill son behind.
There was no point of imploring the soldiers. It was getting late and the last transport to Gaza was ready to leave.
But the soldiers still wouldn’t allow them entry.
A young Palestinian man implored the Israeli officer. “Please help us,” he said.
“I help no one,” answered the soldier.
I tried to rationalize with the officers. One insisted that there is nothing that can be done.
“Let them return tomorrow,” he told me.
But there was nowhere to go, and some of them were hardly able to move.
They just stood there, desperate and confused for another hour, before they accepted their fate, trying to devise plans to find somewhere to sleep for the night.
We all hugged and they left in a daze, planning to return tomorrow, to stand before the soldiers and beseech them for permits to cross the Qalandiya checkpoint, so that they may return home.
Winter is a harsh season.