JERUSALEM, April 11 (JMCC) – It was March 16, the ‘Day of Rage’, and the third day of violent clashes in the Jerusalem
neighborhood of Isawiya
Thirty-year-old Rami Gharib was threatened with losing his job at a West Jerusalem hotel if he didn’t attend that day. Taking advantage of a moment of calm, Gharib ventured out of his house, only to be shot in the eye with a rubber-coated bullet.
The father of two small children lives in a one-bedroom house with his mother and 11-year-old brother.
“I’m the sole provider for the family,” he told the Jerusalem Center for Social and Economic Rights, “as my father has been living abroad for years. I have two brothers, one of which living in the same building, and a half-brother who lives in another neighborhood in Isawiya.”
Gharib’s boss called him that morning, asking why he hadn’t been to work for three days.
“I told him there were violent clashes and I couldn’t leave the area, but he insisted I go to work to discuss my absences.” Gharib had only been employed at the hotel for three months.
A RUN FOR IT
At noon, the clashes seemed to clear. Gharib decided to make a dash for the exit of Isawiya where there was a bus stop from which he could catch a ride to work.
Leaving his neighborhood, he saw masked men at the end of his street, but no stone-throwing. “I also noticed a human wall of soldiers at the main town entrance, 50 meters away or less, but I didn’t notice if some of them were crouched down, positioned to fire,” he says.
“Suddenly I heard what sounded like gunfire and felt something hard hit my right eye. I fell to the ground. Blood began seeping from my mouth and nose.”
Within seconds, men in a private car had picked up Gharib and transported him to nearby Makassed hospital. That evening, he was operated on at a different, Israeli hospital.
“A rubber bullet was extracted from my right eye. It turned out the bullet had entered in the lower eyelid and settled in the upper lid, where it split in half. My eye was surgically extracted and replaced by a glass ball to prevent the eye socket from contracting.”
A GLASS EYE
Gharib was hospitalized for three days when he was told he must go to a hospital in Haifa
to be fitted for a glass eye at his own expense. National health insurance did not cover his injury.
“My work gave me a month and a half off, and informed me I could lose my job because of my injury.”
Gharib’s employer did not acknowledge his injury as work-related, saying that he had been asked to come to work only to discuss his absences, not to put in a day’s labor.
But “what saddens me most,” says Gharib, “is that since I lost my eye, my children have come to fear me and refuse to come near me.”
More than a hundred people were injured in the “Day of Rage” protest, called by Palestinian leaders in response to the reopening of a historic synagogue in the Old City of Jerusalem and an Israeli security crackdown.
Israeli police responded to masked stonethrowers with tear gas, rubber-coated bullets and stun grenades.
Nine police officers were wounded in the skirmishes and 60 Palestinians were arrested, according to police spokespeople.
Gharib was one of two Palestinians struck in the face with rubber-coated bullets, Palestinians said. (Translated by Assil Homuz)