Medic returns from Ramallah

John Gleisner at Tilling Green Community Centre

John Gleisner, retired doctor and medical health practitioner, was welcomed by Rye Quakers following his return from a three month stay in Palestine.

He has been working as a volunteer at the Ministry of Health in Jerusalem. He was also part of a team working at a hospital near Ramallah on a project investigating what patients with mental illness attribute their illness to, and whether this has determined the particular path they have taken to try to find help, (this work required him to have a translator).

Whilst in Ramallah, John took the opportunity to meet up with a few Quaker Friends who are there helping at the large local Friends’ School.

John said “Getting into Israel turned out something of a nightmare. The flight which should have arrived into Tel Aviv at 8pm was three and half hours late. And then I was submitted to an hour and a half interrogation by the end of which I was expecting to be refused entry. But no, not this time. However it was after 3am before I reached my patient hosts.

“Conditions in Palestine are much the same, probably worse than when I was here two years ago. Settlements expand, there continue to be atrocities at the Gaza border and the checkpoints are as horrible as ever. It is very hard to know how Palestinians deal with their frustrations, their sense of hopelessness and their anger.

“On the street people seem relaxed and happy. It is a great pleasure to watch how warmly they greet one another. This warmth however it isn’t evident in mental health services”. He witnessed the difference in the culture and treatment of mental illness with our own practice in the UK, where resources allocated to mental health issues absorb some 10% of the NHS budget. In Palestine, the figure is nearer 1% where there are far greater issues amongst the population.

“Attendances at outpatient clinics and admissions to mental hospital are roughly 10 times the number as rates per 100,000 compared with England”, he said, “and it is to be remembered that about 40% (the author’s figure, unverified by Rye News, but may well be correct – editor) of the adult men here have been political prisoners. I think a lot of the suffering is contained in the very strong family networks. Though this may hide much domestic violence.”

His treatment on departure from Tel Aviv airport was worse if anything than upon his arrival. He was subject to intensive interrogation by Israel Security Agency personnel for nearly three quarters of an hour. His camera was examined frame by frame and his laptop confiscated, only to be returned by separate flight to Heathrow, causing him additional personal inconvenience.

John has lived in Wellington, New Zealand for many years and is visiting England to stay a while with with his daughter, Zoe Gleisner, who owns a flower farm at Beckley, near Rye.



Image Credits: Kenneth Bird.


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