27 October, 2009

Why this injured radio reporter must endure enforced diet, enforced silence

This past Sunday, 24 October, I went to cover some riots in the Old City of Jerusalem. The riots over access to the Temple Mount /Haram Sharif were only sporadic, but I thought it was best to go and see for myself. It was a slow morning and my editors said they needed something -- which is often how these things go...

As I was driving down, top of the local radio bulletin was the Israeli chief of police saying that both extremist Jewish and Muslim groups were inciting their followers to defend the holy site. The closest I could get was an alley near the Lion's Gate where Palestinian boys were burning rubbish and throwing stones. There were lots of Israeli police, but It didn't seem particularly dangerous - I've been to lots of these which were at a much higher temperature.

I needed some sound, but didn't go all the way up to the end of the alley where the rubbish was burning. There were journalists about 20 meters back from the boys and I was about 20 metres back from them, standing under a small balcony to protect me from the stones. As I was getting some sound of the stones being thrown I became aware they were getting larger, more like fist sized rocks, so I decided not to go any further and to turn back. My small balcony didn't feel like sufficient protection any more. As I turned to go one rock caught me in the face.

It was a head snapping blow, coming I now think from someone on a nearby roof, since it came in from above, under the awning. It was incredibly fortunate that I had turned -- it hit me in the lower left jaw, and not in the eye. I never lost consciousness, never felt nauseous, was able to walk to the ambulance. No brain damage, no broken cheek bones or vision problems. That and the localised blow is all part of the good news.

The bad news is my jaw is broken in two places, some of my teeth have been forced out of alignment and one of my facial nerves may have been severed. We won't know for sure about the nerve for a while.

One definite plus about being injured here is the high standard of the health care. I am writing to you from Hadassah hospital where I have had the wound in my cheek stitched and an operation to wire my jaw closed so that the bones will knit and the teeth realign. I look horribly like a werewolf, and will have to stay like this, for six (¡) weeks.

I am quite happy about the enforced diet, less so about the enforced silence, since I am talkative even by journalist standards...

Still my friends have rallied round, supplying me with clothes, magazines books, ipods, laptops - from which I am writing to you on Anyckès French keyboard, which as you can see, I haven't quite mastered. But most of all they have given me support and love, reminding me how lucky I am. This hospital is an amazing melting pot, Palestinians and Orthodox Jews in adjoining beds, kind, fierce Russian nurses, doctors from every nation in the world. Itès an appropriately strange environment from which to reflect on this strange life we lead as correspondents...

I have been to so many dangerous places, for so long, and nothing bad has happened to me before... my friend Margaret who has been in plenty of dangerous situations herself says there is no point in brooding on fate and chance, but I find that I can't help myself...... if I come up with some answers I'll let you know.

Since I can't talk, sms and email are the best way to communicate with me - and since I can't work I will have plenty of time to answer :-)

More bulletins from the Land of Silence soon. The Silence Diet -- wonder if there a book in it....