Dalal: And Now for Some Good News

Gershom Gorenberg

Thanks and an apology are in order.

The thanks are to all those who donated to the Dalal Project, helping to fund Dalal Rusrus’s stay at Alyn Hospital, and to all those who contacted Israeli officials, helping to get Dalal’s parents permits to bring her from the West Bank to the hospital in Jerusalem. Extra special thanks are due to the people who helped coordinate what turned into a major organizational effort to make sure one three-year-old girl began the treatment she needs.

The apology is for my delay in getting back to you with an update. Travel, teaching and writing haven’t left me with any waking moments.

Dalal Rusrus, for those coming new to this story, is a Palestinian child from Beit Umar in the West Bank. She suffers from cerebral palsy and delayed development. Through a series of events I’ve described previously (first here, then here, and then here), she was invited for treatment at Alyn Hospital, the only pediatric rehabilitative facility in the region. The relatively easy problem that posed was paying for the treatment. The more difficult one, it turned out, was getting the necessary permits for her father and mother, Osama and Sunya, to enter Israel to accompany her.

The request for donations, here and elsewhere, brought a quick response from Israel and around the world, from Jews, Muslims and Christians. Much of the funding was handled administratively by the Tzedakah Committee at Kehillat Yedidya in Jerusalem.

After many long conversations with Civil Administration officials, Sunya and Osama got the necessary permits. The reasons for the initial refusals remain obscure. What’s clear from my conversations is that the level of journalistic and public interest surprised the officials, and increased their motivation to solve the problem. Activism worked.

Dalal spent two weeks at Alyn. During that time, she underwent further diagnosis and intense treatment, and her parents were given training to help her exercise. This isn’t a cure. It should, however, improve her quality of life. She will also be receiving various pieces of equipment that are essential for her welfare, paid for by the donations that have come in. The next steps should be ongoing outpatient therapy at a rehab center in the West Bank, combined with periodic reevaluations at Alyn. If help is needed paying for the outpatient treatment – don’t worry, I will certainly let you know.

The good news here is that one girl and her family are getting the help they need, and that people of many backgrounds have not only worked together to help but have been glad to have the chance to do so. In that sense, Dalal has given all of us a gift. Hana Levine at Kehillat Yedidya, Suhair Abdi at B’Tselem and physiotherapist Orit Elion have all put in a remarkable amount of time on this and shown amazing dedication and patience. So have several other people; I haven’t mentioned their names only because I’m not sure if they’d want me to, either because of modesty or institutional connections.

The troubling part of the story is that so much effort was needed. Getting from Beit Umar to Jerusalem should not be a battle with a faceless bureaucracy. A government agency shouldn’t be able to block permission without giving a reason. In an area that has been under Israeli rule for nearly 44 years, and where Israeli settlers benefit from the full support of Israel’s modern health system, Palestinians should not be living at one-tenth the economic level, dependent on the underfunded health-care system of a semi-autonomous authority that is itself mostly dependent on handouts from abroad.

In other words, we need to keep two things in mind, separately, acting on each as if the other did not exist.

On one hand, much more is needed than helping one girl. Whatever improvements there have been in freedom of movement in the West Bank leave people a long way from freedom.

On the other hand, it is entirely worth the effort to help one person, even when it is impossible to help others. Dalal can’t wait for political and economic change, and she has benefited from the help of many people who never met her. Thanks again.

4 thoughts on “Dalal: And Now for Some Good News”

  1. I heard you speak at Temple B’rith Kodesh in Rochester on February 13. Thank you for your insightful words that night, and your inspiring words herein.

  2. The bottom line is that the Rusrus family received the attention and care needed for their daughter.

    THAT should command our attention more then the length of their wait. Ever try to get fast treatment in a Manhattan E.R. late Saturday night?

    The other thing that should command our attention is that while Israel provides care regardless of citizenship, religion and politics, Rusrus’s government (The P.A.) seeks to keep the land that will one day be the independent country of Palestine, Judenrein.

    THAT is a VERY BIG issue that should demand our attention more than whether Israel’s democracy in practice meets our personal expectations, or whether the Israeli bureaucracy rises above the rest of the world’s bureaucracies in providing responsive service to all!

  3. Correction to Steve’s BIG ISSUE above- the PA, or representatives of them ( as Abbas, but others too) has said that the settlers are welcome to stay and become good citizens of Palestinians. So if that is so, no Judenrein. And Don’t forget that there are those in Israel who would like to transfer the Israeli Arabs or draw a border to do so.

    And as long as Israel is going to be an occupier, they are REsPONSIBLE to provide service to the inhabitants of the territory occupied.

    As to the wait in Manhattan’s emergency room this is totally irrelevant.

    I doubt that Dalal would be refused the care she needs here in the USA because of who she is, who her parents are. I doubt she would need such a big effort with important persons publicizing this such as this case to simply to get to that care.

    How many other Dalals are there? Maybe that should also command our attention.

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