QUARANTINE - DAY 41 - 15th April 2020
Yesterday Israeli police raided a coronavirus testing clinic in the East Jerusalem Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan and arrested its organisers because the clinic was operating with the Palestinian Authority. Israel doesn't allow any PA activity in Jerusalem, even though there are many cases of the virus in Silwan - an over-crowded district - and a shortage of tests for the virus.
When discussing the diary a few days ago with friends Manal Odeh and Mohamed Abu Haniyeh we thought we would stop at 40 days. The significance of 40 days was an appealing place to finish. However more people in Bethlehem had stories they wanted to share and so we have decided to continue.
Manal and I, with friends in Gaza and Australia had a practice run for our virtual coffee morning this morning and learnt about Palestinian cooking as we chatted. A few of you have expressed an interest in participating and we will email when we have fixed a time and date. Really looking forward to you joining us..
Todays diary entry is an uplifting story about the determination to overcome this virus:
In the age of coronavirus. Nicola and Mariana Qawas' story of resolution to conquer this disease, as reported by Mohamed Abu Haniyeh:
Nicola Qawwas, is a young man who has wrestled with the coronavirus for more than forty-five days. And hasn't stopped believing that he has the power to be victorious over this virus. Nicola was one of the first to be admitted to the Health Centre to treat corona in Bethlehem. Then three family members followed him in there - his two sisters and mother. Four of the family were now in the Health Centre. Nicola realized that it was because he had transmitted the virus to his family. So there was a deadly conflict between the pain of the coronavirus which was living in his body, and his fear for his loved ones.
After some weeks, his mother and one of his sisters triumphed over the corona and left the centre to go home. The moment of joy that he lived through on discovering that they were clear will never be forgotten by him. He was kept in there with his sister, Mariana who is a university student. Today he completes a transfer, on his forty-second day in the health centre, into the section of quarantine for the healthy.
Nicola's experience was a severe one. Whenever he felt weak, he remembered the prisoners in the prisons of the occupation, and his strength and determination increased - quoting lines of poetry more than once so that the virus will defeat it, as if it were to surrender. The doctors in the centre were not only doctors to us, but rather our brothers, and they provide the best services to all patients in the centre. These doctors will always have a strong bond for us. According to all the guests in the centre, they are waiting for Doctor Ibrahim Melhem - the government spokesman - with great impatience every morning and drinking coffee with the start of Dr Melhem. Nicola says, "This man sows hope among us. We have come to know the situation from the first moments of his appearance on TV."
Sunday is the day when Nicola and Mariana meet all the family for lunch. They miss these beautiful moments with the family. Nicola and Mariana now assume the role of physicians for all new residents. They are trying to make them feel better by all means. With people who are under isolation they perform conversations by speaking to them from behind the doors in order to strengthen their will and lift their spirits.
Nicola and Mariana sit every day, reliving beautiful family memories; communicating with family and friends over the phone. This makes them feel a lot better. Nicola and Mariana have great hope that they will celebrate the glorious holiday of Easter with their family this weekend, and they hope for results that show they are better and cured.
Nicola and Mariana's story of persistence and defiance against this virus was born from the alleys of the town of Bethlehem. They were determined that they would be victorious. The strength of will that is possessed by Nicola and Mariana must be taught in universities. I apologize in advance for not portraying their battle adequately and as they deserve. I sincerely hope that they will be able to celebrate Easter together with their family. Happy Easter to you both - you are the ones who teach us so much...