The journey of a Palestinian boy


Reporting by Creede Newton

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Hashem Fayad



Bir al-Naja

Gaza Strip

Erez Crossing

Total time: 1:59:00

Total distance: 10km

Average speed: 5km/h

Journey unsuccessful

Hashem is in desperate need of

 heart surgery in Jerusalem

Hashem Fayad, a one-year-old child from the Bir al-Naja neighbourhood of Gaza City, was diagnosed with congenital heart defects, including a large hole between the septum separating the upper valves of his heart and two smaller holes in the lower septum. The holes affect the amount of oxygenated air that is pumped throughout his body. He is travelling for a heart surgery appointment at al-Muqased Hospital in East Jerusalem.


Hashem’s parents, Mohammed and Reem, are both unemployed. Their family of seven lives in a meagre home on an unpaved street, and charities pay for Hashem's check-ups and surgery, although the costs of forms, transportation and additional medical services are borne by the family. "There's no money. I have to borrow from my neighbours and my family. I tell them I'll pay them later, but I don't know when that will be."


Since his birth a year ago, the family has been constantly filling out forms for the three political bodies that have a say in Hashem's journey: Hamas, the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Israeli government. Reem places a portion of the papers on her couch. There are more than 20.

7:25 am


The family wakes early on the day of the journey to Jerusalem. It's a half-day at Erez crossing, due to Jewish holidays.


"I'm scared that we won't get there in time. This surgery is very important; we can't miss it," Reem says.


There are three checkpoints that Palestinians in Gaza must cross before entering Israel, including a Hamas checkpoint, a PA checkpoint that coordinates with the Israeli authorities, and the Erez crossing, a large building resembling an airport terminal. When passing through Erez, Palestinians are subject to a series of security checks, labyrinthine corridors where Israelis give directions via speakers and interrogation rooms. "I've spent hours waiting in those rooms. There's no food or water. We're both thirsty and starving by the time we leave," Reem says.


7:40 am


Reem and Hashem arrive at the Hamas checkpoint 20 minutes before it opens.


8:10 am


Reem and Hashem leave the Hamas checkpoint.


8:23 am


They arrive at PA checkpoint, present their identification and begin waiting. Reem cradles Hashem and begins anxiously speaking with other mothers sitting around her.


After about 20 minutes, boredom grips Hashem. He begins grabbing at seats and people surrounding him. Reem feeds him milk from a bottle to settle him down.


About every 15 minutes, an official steps out of the office and hands permits and IDs to waiting Palestinians. Reem begins to lose her company, and after 30 minutes, she is waiting alone. Visibly frustrated, she begins to pace back and forth.

9:12 am


Reem asks the officials about the problem.


"There's no permit," she finds out. "They are checking with the Israelis, but there's no permit."


9:24 am


It's official: The Israelis did not issue a permit. Reem takes her ID and approaches a waiting taxi to ride back to Gaza City. "I don't know if it was the PA or the Israelis. We did everything we were supposed to. I don't know," Reem says, stunned.


She gets in the taxi, and Hashem looks out. They drive back.

Total time: 1:59:00

Total distance: 10km

Average speed: 5km/h

Journey unsuccessful

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