Stories from Qalandiya: Daring to Cross an Israeli Checkpoint While Dying

A critically ill patient at the Qalandiya military checkpoint. (Photo: Tamar Fleishman, The Palestine Chronicle)

By Tamar Fleishman

 As I was crossing the Israeli military checkpoint of Qalandiya, I was verbally attacked three times by heavily armed soldiers. 

“Do you want to be arrested?” they said. 

“This is a military area and you are hampering our work.”

“There is an official edict forbidding it. Leave now or we will force you to leave.”

Moreover, an Israeli soldier came very close to me and he only stopped when I warned him that I would file a sexual harassment complaint.

However, the focus should not be on me, but rather on the Palestinian patient, lying in an ambulance coming from the occupied West Bank. 

He was forced to wait for a long time before being allowed to cross the evil line that separates the West Bank from Jerusalem, to reach the East Jerusalem hospital to which he was referred by his doctors.

Before his arrival, the Red Crescent paramedic warned the Israeli soldiers: “Please, do not have him wait, his condition is worsening,” he repeated time and again. All in vain.

Nobody seemed to pay attention to the patient’s fate. They took their time checking his identity, along with the papers of his wife and son, who were accompanying him. 

A female soldier noticed my concern, as the patient was clearly nearing his death. She immediately became defensive and said: “We allow them to cross and reach the hospital”, as if they were being generous by letting dying Palestinians cross military checkpoints.

“No, you are not being generous,” I said. “This is their right.”

She gave me a dirty look. I remembered that one time, I was told by the woman in charge of medical issues, in reference to a 73-years old cardiac patient who arrived at the checkpoint unconscious: “What does he think? that he could simply come and cross over and get to the hospital?”

Eventually, they authorized the transfer. The patient had to be disconnected from the oxygen tank of the West Bank ambulance, placed on a stretcher, and moved to the Jerusalem ambulance, where he was connected to another oxygen tank. 

I was relieved. I could finally breathe.

(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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