East Jerusalem Hospital Cut Off From All Communication Due to Technicians' Fears to Visit Area

Al-Quds maternity hospital in Kafr Akeb is an Israeli hospital under Health Ministry supervision; technicians will not visit hospital to fix phone line, internet service, outside separation fence, without security escort.

Three months ago, the fax line to the Al-Quds maternity hospital in East Jerusalem's Kafr Akeb neighborhood was disconnected. Two weeks ago, the hospital's Internet service was cut off, followed by the phone line a few days later.

Apparently, the communications cables were stolen. But Bezeq technicians are afraid to visit the area, which is outside the separation fence, without a security escort, so the hospital has been left without any communications.

East Jerusalem neighborhood Issawiya (Alex Levac)
Alex Levac

On Tuesday, a woman in labor arrived in great distress. She gave birth prematurely in an emergency operation that saved her life. The baby was rushed to Al-Muqaddas Hospital in East Jerusalem. But the medical file, which is usually sent by fax, could not be delivered.

"I went to the pharmacy, located about 100 meters from the hospital, to send the faxes from there," said Helmi Barak, the hospital's administrative director. "But it didn't arrive. They kept telling me to try again. In the end, the baby arrived before the medical reports. Afterward they asked for another report, and I had to go to the pharmacy again."

The hospital cannot receive the results of routine laboratory tests, so infants are discharged without the test results about diagnosed sensitivities or diseases.

Mothers delivering babies, ambulance drivers, suppliers and staff members are forced to contact the hospital by calling senior doctors' cell phones.

"At night, the hospital is cut off from the world," Barak said.

Al-Quds is an Israeli hospital under Health Ministry supervision, within Jerusalem's municipal borders. Most of its patients are Israeli citizens or legal residents.

The hospital has appealed to Bezeq repeatedly to fix the lines.

"They said the problem was with the underground cables, but the police and the Israel Defense Forces don't enter the area," Barak said. "Then a technician came and said the problem lies near Atarot Airport. We're an Israeli hospital. Is there any hospital in the world without a fax?"

The separation fence has effectively cut the hospital and Kafr Akeb off from the Israeli authorities, but the Palestinian Authority is forbidden to operate in the area. The result is anarchy, residents say.

"There are no laws, no security," said Munir Zahar, who heads the neighborhood council. "Everyone does whatever he likes. The municipality cannot enter because it needs a security escort; the police won't enter without the army's escort; and the army has no time."

Due to this situation, telephone lines and communication cables are repeatedly stolen, and Bezeq is unable to fix them.

Some 50,000 residents of Kafr Akeb and other nearby neighborhoods suffer from inadequate municipal and state services. They are also forced to wait for hours at the checkpoint on the way to and from Jerusalem.

Following recent improvements, the municipality now collects some 70 percent of the neighborhood's garbage. The rest the people have to burn themselves.

"Kafr Akeb is a Jerusalem neighborhood," said Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Yosef Alalo. "It is entitled to all basic services. It is unthinkable that 50,000 people should be totally neglected by the municipal and state authorities."

Bezeq said Kafr Akeb's communication cables have been "repeatedly stolen in recent months. Bezeq is doing all it can to reconnect its clients there. As for the hospital, Bezeq is looking into alternative solutions to resume service."

The municipality said that "garbage is collected in Akeb four times a week. Recently the city has increased sanitation work there ... The contractor was instructed to pay adequate attention to garbage removal from the hospital."