It came as a big shock to learn that my mother had tested positive for COVID-19.
I was away in Cairo at the time, accompanying my wife as she received medical treatment that is unavailable in Gaza
The news about my mother Raiqa was broken to me by my youngest brother Shadi early one morning during February.
Shadi was calling from al-Aqsa hospital in the Deir al-Balah area of central Gaza. Our mother had been brought to that hospital.
I was speechless and very worried. My mother is aged 72 and has some chronic medical conditions.
She has diabetes and some lung and cardiac issues. Seventeen years ago, she underwent open heart surgery.
I was fully aware that my mother was at quite a high risk. One of our cousins – a 75-year-old man – had died from the coronavirus a few weeks before I had left for Cairo.
Shadi and I spoke many times that day. In the evening, we learned that our mother did not have to stay in the hospital.
She could go back home to Maghazi refugee camp, but would have to quarantine.
Once she was back there, I had a video call with my mother. As she has hearing difficulties, my son Munir had to explain some things to her.
Munir had to wear a mask and make sure that he kept some distance from his grandmother.
To my surprise, my mother quickly moved the subject away from her own illness. She started asking how Faten, my wife, was doing.
My mother said that she was praying for us to return in good health.
I should not really have been surprised. My mother has always been strong, caring and affectionate.
She is a retired school teacher. As her eldest son, I am one of the many people who has learned from her.
It had been quite stressful in Maghazi for many months. During August last year, Maghazi became the first place in Gaza – outside of quarantine centers – where a case of COVID-19 was confirmed.
Many people in our camp are unwell with the virus at the moment. And the situation is grave across Gaza.
After the numbers of infections fell in February, they began to rise again in mid-March. Health workers are speaking about a possible new wave of the virus.
Although my mother is a very strong woman, she has told me that having COVID-19 was the worst experience of her life. She feared that she would die.
My mother knew of people who had died from the virus and where their funerals had to be kept small due to restrictions that were in place. It would be terrible, my mother thinks, to be buried without a proper funeral.
Thank God, my mother has survived. She will hopefully be vaccinated before long.
My mother’s age and medical conditions mean that she should be prioritized in the vaccination program.
Yet we do not know when – or even if – she will receive the vaccine.
Approximately 80,000 vaccines have been delivered to Gaza so far.
That number is completely inadequate for Gaza, which has a population exceeding 2 million people.
China has donated 100,000 further vaccines to Palestinians and these are expected to be used in both the occupied West Bank and Gaza. While the donations are appreciated, the number of vaccines involved remains insufficient.
The Fourth Geneva Convention requires Israel to meet the medical needs of Palestinians living under its occupation. And – despite the dishonest claims of pro-Israel lobbyists – Gaza definitely remains under a brutal military occupation.
Israel has won praise internationally for the swift way it has vaccinated its own citizens. Yet its admirers have generally neglected to point out that the vaccination program underscores how Israel runs an apartheid system.
More than 5 million Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have been shut out of Israel’s vaccination program. The only exceptions are those Palestinians who work inside Israel or its settlements in the West Bank.
This proves that Israel is only willing to protect Palestinians (in this case Palestinians who are badly paid and exploited) if doing so is in the state’s own immediate interest.
Israel has been reported to have a surplus supply of some vaccines.
Some of those vaccines have been shipped abroad – supposedly as gifts to nations with which Israel is friendly.
My mother is the same age as the state of Israel. She was born in 1948, the year when Zionist forces expelled Palestinians from their original towns and villages en masse.
Israel has never been friendly toward her. It has always been an oppressor.
Rami Almeghari is a journalist and university lecturer based in the Gaza Strip.