Rich henna cups Alaa Abu Zeid’s eleven-year old bicep and glitter dots her forehead. She is the star of the second floor of St. Joseph Hospital in East Jerusalem where children who have been transferred from Gaza are receiving surgery after sustaining injuries from Israeli air strikes. Her recovery room is where the ten other children who were medically evacuated are allotted henna and glitter tattoos to splash onto the scant bits of their mottled skin that is free of burns.
Alaa was injured in Rafah when an F-16 dropped explosives on her house killing her seven months pregnant mother, brother and eight other members of her family. During Alaa’s first week in the hospital, all of the staff and the other patients hid the fact of her family’s tragedy. They waited a week until she made it through surgery on her leg, which had the flesh torn off of it during the bombing. In the operation a portion of her left leg was moved to her right. Once she was stable, a social worker told her that most of her family was dead.
When Alaa is left alone she cries, so she is never left alone.
After her operation Alaa was on oxygen support and complained of the smell of the clean air. “She said I like the smell of gas and benzene,” said Tarek Bakri, 28, an engineer by profession and a volunteer who visits with Alaa daily over the past three weeks. “The children are excited when they smell the fuel that runs the generator,” he said. more