It Came Upon a Midnight Cloud

It Came Upon a Midnight Cloud

Summer clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police in the East Jerusalem neighborhood Silwan.

Photo: Getty Images, via The Wall Street Journal.

Postcards from Palestine

Stories of Permanent Exile and Hopeless Expectation

 

Introduction

As an American Christian, recently I acknowledged a sort of coming-out on Israel and Palestine (see: "For Palestinians, an Advent #FAIL"). In this brief Christmas series called Postcards from Palestine, I wanted to give voice to several Palestinians for whom Advent is a no-show.

The following story is taken from the journalist Kenize Mourad's personal encounters with Palestinians in 2002. These stories eventually became the pages of her book Our Sacred Land: Voices of the Palestine-Israeli Conflict (Oneworld Publications; 2004).

 

Postcard

The storyteller is a Palestinian woman born in Jerusalem to a Catholic family. In 2000, she married a Palestinian man from Ramallah in the West Bank.

When you marry a Palestinian from the occupied territories, you risk losing your blue card [Jerusalem residential permit] because the Israeli authorities think that you should no longer live in Jerusalem. And so you [will] no longer have the right to social security, to a pension, to health insurance, to anything.

Just after we were married I naturally went to stay with my husband in Ramallah, which is only 15 kilometers from my work. But driving can take four or five hours because of the checkpoints, so people mostly get around in shared taxis and on foot. And then going from Ramallah to Jerusalem every day while I was pregnant was risky. The soldiers can shoot at any moment or let off toxic gas at the checkpoints if people get impatient. Many pregnant women have had miscarriages because of that.

[In Ramallah, in March 2002] We were under a total curfew and snipers were on the roofs, shooting at anyone who risked going out. I was in the last stages of pregnancy and I was very frightened of being imprisoned there and not being able to get to hospital to give birth. To avoid that, I left for Jerusalem in the middle of the ninth month. Too many women have lost their baby during a siege. Husbands try to deliver the baby with a doctor helping on the end of a phonebut what can they do if there is the slightest complication? Women lose their babies trying to get between the village and the town.

In Jerusalem, I had to give birth in a private clinic. When I tried to book into a hospital in Jerusalem, they refused. They said they could not take me in for the delivery because my husband was from the occupied territories. Even though I had been paying social security contributions for 12 years, I was forced to pay all the costs myself! I was lucky enough to have the necessary money, but what about those who don't?

My husband was absolutely determined to be with me for the birth but to get to Jerusalem he had to take a roundabout route, risking being shot at. When he got here, he had to stay inside the house for a week. If he had been stopped and asked for his papers, he would have been sent to prison.


And ye, beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow.

Look now! for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road,
And hear the angels sing!
— "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" Edmund Sears

A Palestinian man carves nativity sets in Bethlehem, in the West Bank, in 2011.

Photo: Ammar Awad/Reuters.


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