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Jerusalem: letter from a home for the elderly

 Sr Marie Dominique Croyal, Director of the Home of Our Lady of Sorrows, sends this appeal. I would like to inform you about what is happening in our neighbourhood and around our house concerning the construction of the new wall of separation, nine meters high, which began on January 11, 2004. It replaces a much lower wall that allowed people to climb over it once they were no longer permitted to go from Bethany and Abu Dis to Jerusalem. This first wall was built in August 2002. It disorganized and deeply affected the life of the population as well as our own. Separating Jerusalem from the West Bank and running along the road leading to our house, it passes in front of the main entrance to our property. Thousands of people climbed over this first wall: children, students, mothers with their babies, elderly people, etc. Many people have fallen; some have even died from their fall. Two months ago, we had to call the ambulance for a man about 65 years old who fell on his head and lost consciousness. It took the ambulance more than a half-hour to get here. As it reached the Bethany intersection on its way to the hospital, the army searched the ambulance and forced the wife of the injured person to get out, thereby further delaying arrival at the hospital. The things that happen in front of this wall have become intolerable! Hundreds of persons have passed through our property on a daily basis over a period of many months, climbing over our fences in order to escape military control, because many of them work in Jerusalem but do not have the required permits. The people around us live in fear: fear of being arrested, fear of being tear-gassed, and fear of being mistreated, as so often happens. Tension is constant for the entire population whose living conditions have become more and more miserable. It's a daily struggle for these people who are constantly humiliated and assaulted. We really feel alone and helpless in the face of generalized inertia. We want to be spokespersons for these voiceless people who, each day for more than two years, have had to fight their way to reach their workplaces, schools, etc., to say nothing of all the sick who die for want of medical treatment. In trying to accomplish our mission, we too meet up with many difficulties when it comes to hospitalizing elderly people from the West Bank because Palestinian ambulances do not have the right to enter Israel. We must therefore find a way of getting these people to the other side of the wall without crossing any checkpoints so that their families can then bring them to the hospital. The same problem arises when someone dies. The families have great problems bringing the bodies back to the other side. Elderly people still able to get around have not been able to run their errands for the last several months because all the shops are on the other side of the wall. Very often, they have been obliged to call merchants to the front of the wall and place their orders through an opening between two cement blocks. Many of our elderly patients from the West Bank are very lonely because their families can no longer come to visit them. Since the construction of the wall, we have had to be more vigilant than ever about the security of our elderly people. We have had to change suppliers. This represents an increase in the cost of our overhead because life is more expensive in Jerusalem. Today, we do not really know what will happen if the construction of this wall is completed because the majority of our elderly people and of our personnel come from the West Bank. Of our 18 employees, only three have a Jerusalem ID card. For two years, they have had to climb over the wall and constantly change their route in order to avoid the checkpoints because, even with a laissez-passer, the soldiers do not always let them come to our house. This wall will oblige us to: Hire new personnel from Jerusalem and, at the same time, fire the majority of our present personnel. It means we will not be able to receive elderly people from the West Bank. We were not warned of the government's plans, and our house is now more isolated than ever because of the condition of the road. Everyday we must pick up our personnel at various places because the neighbourhood has become a military zone. Purchasing supplies has become extremely complicated, and we spend our time trying to manage the unforeseen. Given the terrible condition of the road giving access to our property, we hope that we won't have to hospitalize any of our elderly persons during the current rainy season. Sister Marie asks readers to pray for all at the Home of Our Lady of Sorrows.