A Doctor's Duty in a Palestinian Prison Camp in Israel

Ishay Lev, MD

In This Article


It was noontime, and the sun was scorching the ground and everything on it. Dust was in the air like it had a purpose of it's own, moving from one side of the camp to the other. A long line of new prisoners were waiting to be seen by me. I examined each one to see whether he was healthy, had not sustained any apparent injury, and was not contagious with anything dangerous for the whole camp. Did I learn this medicine in medical school? I must have? As I walked into the clinic's tent, I caught a glimpse of an old man sitting on the dirt looking very tired. I asked the guards to show him in first. They helped him and, slowly, he made his way in. The old man had tears in his eyes and could hardly stand. He looked about 70, although he was only 50 years old. He had severe diabetes with every target organ damaged, including borderline kidney function; he was losing his eyesight and had undergone 2 myocardial infractions. He was on some 8 medications -- not all of which he could remember -- and he was dehydrated.

For the first time since I came to the prison camp, I looked at an inmate's personal file. It appeared that because he looked so sick and old, he had been the perfect cover for a large store of ammunition (guns, explosives, etc) that the terrorists had hidden in his home, not necessarily with his agreement.

He was too sick to stay here and thus discharged back to his home. I felt like a doctor again but then left confused -- I was treating the soldiers who were going to arrest the old Palestinian who is hiding guns in his house for the terrorists just to be released by me because of his appalling medical state! Whom was I saving by being here?