How he came to be in the Nativity Church in April is unclear. The army had occupied Bethlehem for a few days, but soldiers had not yet reached Manger Square, where hundreds of people had gathered.
On this particular day, soldiers chased Palestinian gunmen to the square. The gunmen shot their way inside the church gate to avoid capture. Many civilians, rushing to get out of harm's way, also raced into the church.
Kawasbeh believes he was shot during the initial gunfight in Manger Square and was taken inside the church for treatment. But Israeli and Palestinian officials said he was among the civilians who had run inside at the start, and was shot a few days later when he tried to elude Israeli snipers when going to the well.
"I don't remember who shot me," Kawasbeh said recently. "The Israelis and the Palestinians were shooting." He said he passed out within minutes of being wounded. He arrived at Hadassah unconscious, and remained that way for three months.
Alert and out of intensive care, Kawasbeh has become a fixture on the third floor of the surgical wing. He has learned a smattering of Hebrew and helps Israeli-Arab patients adjust. He can get up, walk in his slippers and smoke, but sustenance arrives through an IV.
To pass the time, Kawasbeh serves other patients tea, plays card games with attendants - and sometimes with visiting Israeli soldiers. He is shy, almost reluctant to share his story, but promises to relay to his family and friends the good treatment he has received.
"I don't feel anything bad about the people here," he says, referring to Rivkind as a "dear friend." "He is very important in my life. He saved me."
Rivkind returns the favor by calling Kawasbeh "my son." The two often talk, Kawasbeh in his broken Hebrew and Rivkind in broken Arabic.
Kawasbeh's prognosis remains uncertain. Rivkind says he has no idea whether his patient will ever eat or function normally. "Samer will suffer all his life from this injury," the doctor says.
In six months to a year, Rivkind will discharge Kawasbeh and send him back across the Israeli army checkpoint to Bethlehem. "Samer is not a chair or a bed. He is not part of this hospital," the doctor says. "This is the aim of all doctors, to treat their patients and send them home."