FROM BEIRUT TO JERUSALEM By Swee Chai Ang
(A woman surgeon with the Palestinians)
The author is a surgeon, a humanitarian and a devout Christian, who volunteered to treat the wounded in Beirut "and almost by chance found myself working in Sabra in a Palestinian refugee camp." She believed (and still believes?) that "the gathering of Jews from all over the world into the state of Israel was the fulfilment of scriptural prophecies." She did not accept what she suspected might be just propaganda from a PLO member she met. She only wanted to use her professional skills to help those in need of them.
Despite the terrible wounds of her patients and lack of medical facilities and medicaments, she still saw her mission as a minstering angel and shunned any seemingly political implications. The situation was dire. The Palestinians who had been "uprooted" from their land and homes had fled to the Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Syria and Iraq. But they were not "absorbed" in those countries, as the new occupiers of their homelamd had hoped. They saw themselves not as refugees but as temporary exiles, determined to return to their homes - and the sooner the better. It is instructive to note (as the author did) that there were some Jewish families amongst them who left with them in protest and had remained with them in the camps. And what camps – cramped, unhygienic, lacking all the normal facilities of civilised life. In addition, bombed and constantly under threat. The author did her best to alleviate what she could and gradually developed a love for the Palestinians which enabled her to overcome her fears in the hazardous conditions she, too, had to suffer.
She came to realise that Palestinian "terrorist" acts were a comparatively feeble response to the oppression and dispossession they had suffered. And the "uprising" was an attempt to undo the wrongs they felt had been done to them. It was the Israeli response to this uprising that brought about the conditions requiring her medical and surgical skills.
To get the full details of her experiences and the complex situation, you will have to read this quite fascinating book yourself.
Reviewed by Len Goldman, July.2014