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On Wednesday, I was able to set up a time for me to go in and get a tour of the Lutheran World Federation campus. They run and advocate in favor of the Augusta Victoria hospital on the Mount of Olives, as well as advocate in favor of granting health care equitably to all Palestinians in the territories and in Israel. Meeting with Tyler, the intern for the semester who I had met a few weeks before at a church service, we started off with the immense olive orchard of the LWF. Numbering 800 olive trees (which helps keep the Mount of Olives with an accurate title, it seems). As he explained to me, the amount of olives fluctuates on a 2 year cycle, but last year it took the LWF and a slew of volunteers 2 months to harvest the… 12 tonnes of olives. That is quite a bit of olive oil that they press, and then package into hand-blown glass bottles from Palestinian artisans in the north. The LWF then ships the olive oil around the world, and the proceeds help fund Augusta Victoria and their advocacy work here in Israel.

Speaking of the hospital, Tyler and I walked over there next, and I got a grand introduction to the place. Built by Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany, it is named after his wife and was originally intended to be a house for German pilgrims coming to the Holy Land; and as Tyler explained, it was, bar none, the most beautiful building in Jerusalem for the late 19th century, and a good part of the 20th (prior to major renovations of ancient sites). The location it is built upon was important before its construction as well; on that same spot, the Roman 12 Legion had their headquarters built in Late Antiquity, and in the upstairs room of the western wing of the hospital is where Winston Churchill sat down, rolled up his sleeves, and basically said “let’s split up Trans-Jordan, shall we?” The chair from Mr. Churchill is in the house of the LWF director, Pastor Mark Brown. Pr. Brown also finds bits and pieces of Roman regalia, Jordanian uniform buttons, and everything in between them scattered throughout his yard. Today, as I shall explain, the hospital serves as the single specialty hospital for all Palestinians (so geriatrics, pediatrics, cancer issues, etc).

In any event, walking into the main gate of the hospital campus, we were immediately confronted with 4 Palestinian women who looked extremely shell-shocked; they were just sitting on the curb, with their possessions at their sides. Tyler explained that many ordinary citizens, assuming they are granted permits by Israel (which they usually aren’t) come from Gaza to get the treatment they need for special health concerns in the daze of having been in a war zone. We walked inside the main entrance, into a beautifully-kept antechamber which is now the lobby for the hospital, and started to take a look at the various wings in the building, and the services offered therein.

First up, we walked down to the cancer treatment ward. Currently, there are about 3.8 million Palestinian people in the territories who would have to come to Augusta Victoria for the treatment of cancer. At the hospital, and due entirely to the generosity of the churches of Norway, there is one (1) single cancer bed (a very sophisticated piece of medical equipment which is able to do diagnostic operations to determine the location of the cancer, as well as chemo-therapy or radiation treatment. And there is only 1. For 3.8 million people. That might anger some of you, my readers, a little bit. What really enrages me is that those same, generous Norwegian churches managed to save enough money to purchase a second cancer bed to donate to Augusta Victoria. Whats the problem, one might ask? The government of Israel refuses to issue a permit to bring an identical (to the original one), life-saving, and Customs-taxable piece of medical equipment into the country. Of course they give no reason as to why the requests are denied, and I will not seek to explain anything away; I merely have to ask what good reason can a person envision to deny cancer treatment to people who need it? It would be different if this were a different country, perhaps, where the money isn’t available to bring the equipment to rural areas. But it was already fully paid for, and destined for a professionally-run hospital, and yet it sits somewhere in Norway, stuck in bureaucratic limbo. Not really OK with me, and to be 100% explicit about this: I do not take sides in this conflict. The only side I could be accurately accused of taking is that of the individual human beings involved.

We walked up a few levels and went to see the dialysis ward. As the treatment for people whose kidneys do not properly clean their blood, it is already painful and invasive (it takes hours for the machines to treat an afflicted person’s blood, at least once per week). What really bothers me the most is what happens to the Palestinian children who are in need of this treatment. For a child, what is consistently painful and invasive is also very scary, yet they are forced to travel alone on public buses all the way to the hospital. Again, without any given reason, the government of Israel denies the parents of children who need dialysis the permits they need to accompany their children to and from treatment. As a result of this, the next place Tyler took me in the place was to the nearly-finished children’s ward, which is going to incorporate a variety of treatments and equipment for conditions faced by children whose parents cannot come with them. As such (and as you can see in the photographs), that ward is painted in very warm and inviting colors, and already has a few toys donated by international groups and churches from around the world.

Speaking of churches, it is important to note that the nearly-100% Palestinian Muslim hospital staff works very closely with the 100% Christian Lutheran World Federation staff to run a professional and vitally-needed place of healing. It is nice to know that in some places in the world, people can stop treating each other like garbage based on differences and actually work together to help those in dire need.

Tyler and I walked outside and around the campus, which I plan on volunteering for in a few weeks (unfortunately, it is the custom of Palestinian people to simply throw trash on the ground whenever they feel like it, so the grounds are very dirty as a result). We went and sat in the shade of a ruined Jordanian bunker from 1967, overlooking the Judean desert, the Palestinian neighborhood where Jesus is said to have raised Lazarus from the dead, and the biggest Jewish settlement in the West Bank, and we spoke about politics and religion. Quite the location for such a discussion, no? At the end of our discussion, he invited me to that very spot for the combined German, English, Danish, and Arabic Easter sunrise services, which I plan on going to. I hope you’re looking forward to some great photographs; they will be up in about 2 weeks for you to enjoy.

All in all, a very interesting and enlightening day at the LWF compound.


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