Saturday, January 20, 2007

People and things are at best the same.. to Israel

Erez Crossing-

Living in the Gaza Strip is one story, but getting out of it is, for sure, a special miracle for further punishment.
Between the years 1998 and 2002 I studied in Birzeit Univeristy. Birziet is a village near Rammallah, In the West Bank. In 1998, students were lucky enough to get permits from the Israelis. The permits were 6 months period. If a student doesnt manage to renew his/her permit he/she remains illegal in the West Bank, because he/she is originally from Gaza.
In 2000, we, students of Gaza, got stuck in the West Bank, because a complete closure was made in the territories as the Second Intifada started. In 2000 - 2002 Gazan students couldnt move between vllages or towns in the West Bank, or the did, by sneaking in or creating good lies. Thats because, the checkpoints between the villages and towns used to check IDs. and if the israeli soldiers would find a Gazan in the car..or walking, Erez will be his deportation destination.
leaving this period aside, you can imagine how important and how signifiant is the period of undergraduate. Its the first real experience especially if you, kind of, moved away from your parents. My best friends, my best places, every little even or story remains in my heart as the deepest meaning of my life. Birzeit made me. Its a special case. Being a Gaza in West also another experience.

After coming back o gaza, my home town, i was trying every possible way to get a permit to visit this town and see my friends. I managed to work with an International organization. International organizations have good chances to apply and get permits. ordinary palestiniains can't. I managed to go once in 2004 for 2 days.

Last week...was the second time i managed to get this permit, and i was the happiest person that I can finally do this!
So, i went with my boss and another collegue,, and here the journey starts...

You could see all the excitement on my face..but also, many many many other emotions...
We stopped at the first point were we get off the cab and start to walk towardsthe Palestinian guards. Those guards have one responsibility, and it is to take our ID cards and our permits if we have them with us, usually they are issued and recieved from the Israelis inside the crossing, and let the Israeli officers know that these names with these ID numbers are here. This step can take from 20 min in the best luckiest cases, to 3 hours, when I once experienced. After your name/ id number is called on the wireless device from the Israelis you jump to take your ID and take your luggage and start walking.
I m not good in measurements but its a big long terminal./corridor. It takes about 15 min to walk..till you reach the first Israeli Gate. Its closed. In front of you another zone of about 15 meters and then another similar gate and on the sides metal fences. You wait and wait. You cant notify someone that you are here. Except if you cross the line by talking to your collegue or laugh..then they hear you and they yell in hebrew sometimes in arabic; telling you to shut up..or lower your voice..or wait. This voice comes from some speakers. You cant even see speakers! So you basically deal with vacume and some yelling instructing you from.above?!
This time that you wait at this gate really varies..from 20min - hours. The gates suddenly recieve a signal and opens automatically and opens only to one meter so that it will be just enough for everyone to run in between the door and fences. Now, you are in a "buffer zone" thats at least what i and some people i met there called it. you wait again between 10min- one hour. the next gate opens and takes you to narrow terminals that are fenced and you walk quickly one by one, because the width doesnt take more than one person size anyway. The third door that is usually open, you pass a ery narrow revolving metal entrance that takes you to the security chek up. You start to recieve instruction in the language that is availabe. if you know hebrew thats great becasue sometimes you are just yelled at just because you are trying to guess what the hell does she/he (soldier) wants? So you manage to get your stuff on the luggage x-ray machine and most of the times they ask you to get most of the stuff out of it. Then .. you pass a metal detectro and then you find yourself in front of a rounded glass room that is surrounded from both sides with metal strips. You enter you see yellow marks for the feet and the door closes and its the X-ray machine this time for people. the doors closes, a louder voice from the "instructor" yelling at you, sometimes nice, by saying" please do this" . The soldier tels you what to do; you put your feet on the right place and raise your hands and stay still, and these two metal things go around you about 2 times really quickly thats sounds like a washing machine! and then the door opens. and you can go on now. You collect your stuff from the other side of the bags x-ray machins and you find your laptop thrown on the metal box under the machine, unless someone before you saved it from crashing. You walk about 20 meters passing few fences and terminals, and then reach a room that is glass and conrete. you communicate with someone finally! the soldiers. They check that you have a permit or check the permit that you have with you by putting your ID on the glass and wait for the Ok.They give you a colored piece of paper that proves that you can travle through Israel. After this , you walk about 10 meters, and here s the private security company personnel finds u and make you put the bags and open them. They are quiet, mostly polite. They search every little thing in the bag, they alsmost started to read my book! As soon as you get the Ok from those. you walk to the final gate! It is about 40 meters to that final gate. and you give the colored piece of paper and leave!!
I apologize if this confused you...but i needed to put down.
for any clarifications. please ask through comments.

There is still a lot more to tell about my shock approaching Ramallah..that has become an odd town drown in the Israeli "settlements, now i call cities"

Thanks for your patience.


aCkret said...

Naj, Whats another gate right? what's another corridor, whats another wall, whats another terminal whats another loud patronizing obnoxious soldier WHATS another "buffer zone" WHATS ANOTHER F-ING DOOR???! My voice is your voice Naj, and our voice is the voice of Palestine.
Be safe, wait for me :)

dim said...

Seriously Naj..that's ridiculous! NO ONE SHOULD EVER HAVE TO ENDURE THAT!!! Show's how 'humane' Israel is, huh...

Thank you for being eyes and ears for those of us abroad...everyone needs to read this to find out the truth of what's going on!

Stay strong Naj!! Luv u!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing it down so us and hopefully the rest of the world can see what it is like. Take good care of yourself and keep writing so hopefully more and more people will pay attention.
Miss you!

Dua' said...

Naj, this brought back many memories to my head, most importantly my last "successful" attempt to leave gaza. I was willing to endure it. I was willing to do whatever they ask me to, i was willing to wait for 24 hours if this would mean I would do what I wanted to do; if it would mean I will be with the people i miss and the places that grew with me. I didn't care if these ugly machines would harm my health, knowing that some are banned internationally. This is what a Lucky Gazan with a permit would feel when passing Erez checkpoint.
Naj, I miss you so much. Write about all..

Sami Majed said...

I recall when I used to travel to Amman through Allenby crossing during 1998-2000 period, there were only 2 gates (the rotating metal gates that you cannot pass your bags through unless you throw them on top of the gates)... Today I was discussing this very issue you're talking about Naj with an American professor at Emory Univ., he was telling me about his experience when he visited Birzeit and met with a girl from Gaza that didn't visit her family for the whole period of her study!... he was in total shock when I told him that between Rammallah and Gaza is two hours by car (in normal situations, i.e. if there is no "Israel"), but it could take you years to travel between the two cities...

So, enjoy your trip there (I don't know how, with all the checkpoints), but try to do so!...

Nice blog!

Maher said...

Aren't we humans afterwards, don't we deserve to have and receive the same kind of treatment and respect.

If this was an experiment to try on rats, they would die half way through, and animal right association would stand and demand right enforcments.
But I guess the word respect comes with different meanings, and to each there is a value.
That's not all, that's just the beginning.
I can't believe what I was reading, but I believe in what we are saying.

God with you in every step you take...
With permission, I gotta steal your article and post it on my space, so others can read it as well, we are still humans, no matter what.

World, open your eyes, listen and see, maybe one day somebody will understand and give humans the right they deserve, as they own it nationwide.

Your friend,

bilal k said...

hey Naj,

thanks for writing this in full detail. your words help solidify the image in my head of these crossings in particular. In general, these crossings could be a kind of metaphor for the life you are forced to live in the occupied territories. Scrutiny, adversity, inhumanity, confusion, lack of direction, and strangulation....these are all elements of pali life as i see it, and your description of the crossing surely exemplifies all of these conditions.

shall we truly test the limits of human patience and endurance in Gaza? I fear the consequence of this cruel experiment.



Anonymous said...


Tell your people that if they stop blowing innocent Israeli's up, perhaps you and others like you won't have to endure your alleged story. But until this day-Please G-d let it be soon, Israel has the right to protect Herself.

Merenra said...

Naj, I have to tell you that not only palestinians, but also journalists who come to Gaza to write about the situation there are being "treated" at the same, or even worse manner. I've underwent body search on Erez, many other humiliating procedures and even detention, since the army isn't really interested for press to go down there and cover Gaza as it should. Erez is one of most humiliating and awful places I've ever been to. Of course I'm just a journalist, while you are living there...

david verveer said...

Naj. hi and shalom,
Iam sorry, but I don't see anything wrong in the treatment you received at the Gaza Israel border post, most is based on safety for you and safety for us. You realized it was much easier but terrorists ruined it for you. If I understood correctly, most soldiers were polite.
I hope that we get peace fast and you and your fellow citizens can travel undisturbed to the West Bank. I wish you success with your studies
Kind regards,
David Verveer

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