Stories from Qalandiya: A Miniature Jesus at a Military Checkpoint

A critically-ill Palestinian infant at the Israeli military checkpoint of Qalandiya. (Photo: Tamar Fleishman, The Palestine Chronicle)

By Tamar Fleishman

What do you call it, when bureaucracy takes precedence over a person’s health and human life is not a priority anymore?

I don’t know how to define a situation when a baby, sedated and ventilated, is detained at the Israeli military checkpoint of Qalandiya and is not allowed to reach the Muqassad Hospital in East Jerusalem.

The Muqassad is the only hospital capable of carrying out a complicated surgery, for all health centers in the West Bank do not possess the ability and knowledge needed to operate the rib cage of a 5-month-old baby.

The infant – with tubes surrounding his tiny arms and tiny body – lays there motionless, his eyes shut. He resembles a miniature version of Jesus on the Cross.

A female Palestinian doctor and a nurse from Ramallah are with him, while, from the other side, an emergency ambulance arrives. This is the only vehicle possessed by the Red Crescent, carrying a specialist paramedic who has undergone training for such extraordinary cases.

It is obvious for everyone that the infant’s fragile condition requires special, swift treatment.

Everyone? – Not exactly. The Israeli officials manning the military checkpoint have their own order of priorities, in which bureaucratic procedures come first.

They detain the ambulance carrying the infant with his mother, doctor, and nurse, until they verify, beyond all reasonable doubt, that the documents are ‘kosher’ and that the Palestinian infant is indeed the one registered in those papers. 

The medical staff is forced to replace the infant’s oxygen tank because it could run out of oxygen before he arrives in East Jerusalem.

Even a baby, whose life is hanging by a thread, is not allowed to go directly to the hospital, where a special medical team awaits him. 

(Translated by Tal Haran; Edited by Romana Rubeo)

– As a member of Machsomwatch, Tamar Fleishman documents events at Israeli military checkpoints between Jerusalem and Ramallah. Her reports, photos and videos can be found on the organization’s website: She is also a member of the ‘Coalition of Women for Peace’ and a volunteer in ‘Breaking the Silence’. Tamar Fleishman is The Palestine Chronicle correspondent at the Qalandiya checkpoint.


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