By: Ruba Anabtawi
Closed commercial stores in Jerusalem due to the Corona pandemic
Exclusive to Environment and Development Horizons (Afaq magazine):
Jerusalem’s Specificity and Jerusalemite Communion
Jerusalemites had to confine to their houses since 15th of March per the abiding directive from Prime Minister Netenyahu who stated that house-quarantine is mandatory until further notice in Jerusalem and Israel. They have also suspended the prayers at al-Aqsa Mosque, and at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, falling in line with the adopted prevention measures. The many fears pertaining the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) are unmistakable in the streets of Jerusalem, especially in the Old City and its surroundings, as that city is crowded with houses, many of which are no more than one or two rooms. This reality, evident to everybody, is the result of the occupation’s systematic policies designed to crack down on the Jerusalemites in terms of housing and other matters, making the quarantine impossible, in tandem with a significant increase in the number of cases among Israelis.
In Jerusalem, dozens of Jerusalemite positive cases have been announced as of March 31st. This figure was confirmed to Afaq magazine by several doctors, based on the numbers transferred from the medical centers in Jerusalem. Nonetheless, these numbers are unreliable due to the absence of preventive examinations carried out on Jerusalemites, or the existence of a hotline in Arabic to report suspected cases.
As an initiative to find spatial alternatives for East Jerusalemite cases who are tested, or suspected, to be positive for COVID-19, and to offer logistical, moral, educational and legal support in anticipation of more difficult days, in the second third of March, a group of activists and volunteers in Jerusalem established a unified body where ideas and opinions are brainstormed and developed via social media. The group, Jerusalem Ghathering [in Facing Corona], includes 82 different institutions in East Jerusalem and several volunteers from different disciplines.
Just in Case…
Fadi Imtoor, one of the establishers, says that the Ghathering was able to provide tents that would serve as additional rooms or preliminary screening stations in the event of a wider outbreak in East Jerusalem. Arrangements were made with several hospitals in Jerusalem, in addition to the Ghathering’s efforts to provide hotel rooms for doctors from the West Bank who are unable to commute between Jerusalem and its governorates because of the closures. The Jerusalemite activist Imtoor points out that the Ghathering was founded to protect Jerusalemites and to provide a safe channel for communication, given the racism by the Israeli authorities manifested by procrastinating in dealing with Arab cases in Israeli hospitals, and the absence of any Arabic-speaking emergency line to report suspected Corona cases (up until this report was prepared). He mentions the humiliation of seven Jerusalemites workers, one of whom was suspected to be positive for Coronavirus; they were kept on the street for five hours without being admitted into the hospital, and were only given a quick verbal counseling by the Star of David ambulance worker. Imtoor questions whether Israel treats its Jewish patients with the same recklessness …. Impossible!
“The occupation arrested Jerusalemite volunteers who have taken the initiate to sterilize vital institutions in East Jerusalem. This comes as part of the Israeli Authorities’ intention to guarantee that Palestinians are idle in their own city, wanting them to only await orders pertaining to Coronavirus from Israeli authorities”. Imtoor assures how much “Jerusalemites experience marginalization and racism”. He continues that “in the case of positive testing, the Palestinian individual has no refuge, as the Israeli hospitals threaten to not admitting any Arabs, while Palestinian hospitals pronounced their incapability to receive corona cases due to the lack of diagnostic equipment and specialized doctors!” Imtour hopes that a screening center will be very soon established, and soon enough, a free hotline to provide support for Jerusalemites in different aspects during this crisis will be released.
Translated by: Carol Khoury