The Terminal

On this Palestinian Independence Day I decide to take a break and go and visit the zoo in Jerusalem together with the children. Mary, who of course cannot join because she doesnat have a permit or a foreign passport-with-a-three-month visa as I do, puts fruits in the bag for me and for Jara and Tamer. Should we put a knife in the bag, to cut the fruits? Better not to have an iron knife, but a plastic one, we think, because the soldiers at the checkpoint may become suspicious. I make a quick check on the Internet to see whether there are problems to be expected on the road. The Bethlehem taxi driver tells us that today the new terminal is in use. We approach not a checkpoint but rather something that resembles an international border. 

WaPSR Delegation Diary 2: The Israeli Peace Movement in Jerusalem

In March 2005, Dr. Bill Dienst traveled to Palestine and Israel as part of a delegation sponsored by Washington State Physicians for Social Responsibility (WaPSR). The delegation met with prominent Palestinians as well as members of the Israeli peace movement. They also traveled inside the Kiryat Arba’a settlement to hear a prominent member of the settler movement. In the second of a series of articles for EI’s Live from Palestine diaries section, Dr. Dienst describes these meetings. 

You Are Not Entering Free Gaza

On Sunday I meant to leave the Gaza Strip. This has exactly two exits. The first, the Rafah border crossing to Egypt, was, by Egyptian agreement with Israel, closed for six months when the Israeli army left Gaza - nominally for phantom ‘repairs’, a euphemism for Israeli-Egyptian collusion to forestall be it even the illusion of Palestinian sovereignty over Gaza’s borders. On Sunday morning I received a call: the second exit, the Erez checkpoint into Israel, was also closed, indefinitely, for no stated reason, not only to Palestinians - that would not be news - but to foreigners, too. That Gaza is a prison is a metaphor that suffers from overuse, because it is too literally true to function as metaphors usually do. 

Sleeping in Gaza under roaring Israeli jets

Israeli jetfighters, mainly F-16s, continue to air-strike many areas in the ‘recently-evacuated’ Gaza Strip, in which several Palestinians have been killed, dozens others wounded, severe damages inflicted to buildings and a great deal of panic caused to men, women and children. “Suddenly, at 2:30am, in the early hours of Saturday 24, 2005, I woke up suddenly from my sleep, finding my three little kids, Ghadir (9), Rewan (6) and Fadi (4) , crying fearfully in my room, calling “Dad, Dad”. 

Gaza family's nightmare comes to an end

He was a happy man, gracefully making his way amid the guests who filled his living room, distributing smiles as well as juice, while sharing jokes and social talk, with a smile that would not leave his face. “Nafez Abu Nahyeh was reborn today,” whispered one of the guests, while pointing at their host, who took the center of a rustic couch with his four children, tickling the youngest and caressing the hair of the eldest. For more than three years the Abu Nahyehs were prisoners in their own home, after Israeli soldiers had commandeered their house, which is situated right next to the Jewish settlement Kfar Darom. 

Rafah: A new kind of tears in the rubble

For more than five minutes the grandmother of 19-year-old Khaled Al-Najjar has not stopped hugging or kissing him in the Salahiddine (Philadelphi) corridor on the Palestinian-Egyptian border. “I have not seen my grandson for 11 years. The Israelis prevented me from traveling to Egypt and prevented my grandson from entering Gaza,” said the crying grandmother. Khaled is a Palestinian resident of the Egyptian city of Al-Arish, with half of his family in Gaza and the other half in Egypt. The last time they met each other was in 1993. 

Gaza and the children who did not visit the sea for 5 years

At 3am on September 12th, the last Israeli soldier left Gaza and, at the same minute, crowds of Palestinian left their homes in the towns and villages of Gaza from north to south and vice versa, and towards the Israeli settlements. Curious, excited, and sensing the taste of freedom they have been denied for the last 38 years, the Gaza roads were jammed with cars, carts, and people. 

Across the killing field

Yesterday, I joined thousands of Palestinians who streamed across the once impermeable and deadly wall that divided this battered border town into two, to visit family and friends they had not seen in decades, to shop, or simply to see Egypt for the first time. It was yet another journey into the surreal. There I was, after all, standing in the Dead Zone known as Philadelphi corridor by Israelis, the killing field by Palestinians, the very location where Israeli tanks once nested awaiting orders to pound this refugee camp, their tracks still imprinted in the sand, the Palestinian homes they destroyed spread out like carcasses in the background. The once deadly frontline of the Israeli army had become a porous free-for-all. 

They were finally gone

After 38 years and 67 days, they were finally gone. They being the Israeli soldiers and settlers of course, that for so long made our lives miserable here in Gaza. I went to tour the vacated colonies-as a journalist, but also as an ordinary Palestinian. Like thousands of other Palestinians, I was simply curious, and, in the end, giddy, awe-struck, and in absolute disbelief. I got up early, wasting no time after the last of the soldiers left to take a peak at what lay beyond the once fortified colonies, that although only metres away, for Palestinians, may as well have been on a different planet. 

Reflections: Leaving Las Vegas, I mean, Israel, but actually Palestine

In my experience, the transition from the West Bank to Israel has never been pleasant. It is the act of voluntarily leaving a society where nearly everyone is outgoing and hospitable, then entering one where most people are paranoid, judgmental and usually armed. I was therefore grateful to notice that my driver extended the former qualities, as he pointed to the Palestinian villages we passed along the fringe of the West Bank. “Shoof!” (“Look!”) Beit Hanina hone (“here”),”? he said, pointing to the West, “Ou (“and”) Beit Hanina hunak (“there”),” now pointing to the East. Still smiling, he motioned ahead naming villages we would pass along the way, “Biddu, Beit A’nan, Beit Leqia ou Bil’in”.