Vacation from Palestine
When I was around 11, I had a lesson in my Arabic language book that was called Gaza International Airport. Back then, I thought it was pretty silly to study about ruins that no longer exist. People around me always talked about how badly we needed an airport, but it never really concerned me since travelling, in the first place, seemed to be a far-fetched dream.
Well, 20 days ago I was preparing my suitcase for my vacation that is to be spent in Germany. This was a lot more exciting than it sounds. I have never dreamed of crossing the borders… and now Germany! I was so happy that morning waiting for the taxi which would take me to Jericho where I will cross the Jordanian borders to get to the airport in Jordan and to my destination after.
My excitement was killed as we spent 6 hours crossing the borders (first Israeli-controlled and then Jordanian-controlled crossings). We had to wait in very long queues, wait hours for buses to take us from one bridge (over the Jordan river) to another while the actual distance can be crossed in minutes, but we had to wait and wait for reasons that I don’t understand. People at the bridges (Israeli and Jordanian) were not that nice, I even felt humiliated by the tough treatment I got when it came to a stamp or signature.
I felt relieved as I was done with crossing the borders, just like a prisoner out of jail! But this got me thinking: what if we do have an airport? We wouldn't have to go through Jordan, to get to Queen Alia Airport to catch a flight! We would simply go to our own airport and fly without the 6-hour torture of border crossings.
I was astonished at Vienna airport while waiting for the next flight to Berlin. Everyone seemed used to it, but I was just like a child seeing the world for the first time. I remember the man who sat next to me in the plane saying “It’s kind of sad to be too happy for one of your simplest rights as a human”. That simple human right has always been my dream – just like many Palestinians. But his words me made me realize the heinous comparison between the life we get and that other countries offer for their residents.
Germany blew me away and I loved every single second of it, but I couldn’t help but feel homesick in the last few days in Berlin. I really missed Palestine! But I was terrified of the idea of crossing the borders again!
I envied people who landed in Jordan and were not Palestinians; they would simply take a car home and that’s it, but for us another kind of travel would begin. I can’t take the image of our piled and potentially lost bags at the bridge. The feeling of insecurity while searching for your suitcase that’s lost in the mess, and the long queues. My heart was tortured as it squeezed tears out of my sleepless eyes while waiting for two hours pointlessly in a bus before it finally started moving from the Jordanian bridge to the Israeli bridge and then to Jericho.
I felt like an exhausted warrior on the way back to Nablus. I laid my head on the car window thinking of nothing and feeling miserable.
“Mays, you want some?” My friend Qais said handing me my favorite chocolate bar
“No, thanks” I quietly said as my tears found their way out in the darkness.
Those last 7 hours crossing the borders erased all the happiness I had in Germany, and made me reconsider travelling abroad as a ‘dream’ or a simple human right.