Many people consider that traveling is a cool thing, easy to go from a place to any other one in the world, that all you need to do is set a date for your travel, then book your flight through a phone call or using the internet…
I think that’s what most people do, right?
Question is; is it the same case for the Palestinians living in Gaza? Can they travel easily? Can they just book a flight and leave? Is it possible for them to go to Egypt without any restrictions? Is it even possible to SET a date?
Let me sequence what you need to do if you want to travel from Gaza to anywhere else;
1- You have to go the registration office in Gaza at least 3 months before the date you wish to travel on. For example, if you want to travel on October, you have to register on July. Why? Because the Great Pharaohs allow only 300 people to leave daily and the number of people wishing to leave for several reasons is huge, so there is no empty place for you before October.
2- After waiting for 3 months, you go to Rafah gate. There, you would be really really really really really really lucky if you made it in your first try; people usually go 3 or 4 days in a raw, hoping to get in and not everyone crosses in the end as thousands are waiting for their turn.
3- If you made it and crossed the gate, you’ll have to wait in the Palestinian hall for at least 2 hours until you get your passport stamped.
4- Then you get in the bus and wait for some more.
5- Then you cross to the Egyptian hall and wait for them to call your name and stamp your passport. But guess what? They don’t stamp all the passports they receive. Almost 50 out of every 300 people will be returned to Gaza; depends on the mood of the person stamping the passport.
A. Ruhmi is married to an Egyptian and wanted to go see his wife who was about to have her first baby. He registered, made it to the Palestinian hall, got in the bus then to the Egyptian hall. That’s when they told him to go back to Gaza. And when he asked them about the reason, they said that he was on the black list. He started explaining them that he used to live in Egypt and is not affiliated with any political movement and has never carried a gun in his life. They got him in the bus by force and sent him back to Gaza, without him being able to see his wife.
N. Matter is a student at an Australian university; she booked her flight for the 14th of July and registered to cross on the 11th of July. She couldn’t make it on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd attempts. She spent days going to the gate and coming back and hours waiting in the sun. When she finally managed to cross, it was too late for her to catch her flight, so she had to pay again for a plane ticket.
Traveling became a fiction and talking about it might make you look crazy in front of other people. Even though it’s a legitimate right, traveling is never for fun and entertainment for Palestinians from Gaza; the only reasons that make them seek to leave Gaza is a treatment, work or study – most of the time, it’s for humanitarian and urgent needs.
Some questions came to my mind while writing this; where are the Egyptian revolutionists? Why is all this torture for the people of Gaza? How do Egyptians justify banning thousands of people from traveling for basic needs? Why do children and elders have to wait for hours, days and sometimes weeks in the sun for their turn to come? Why do patients have to suffer more at Rafah gate?
Please close this gate… we don’t want it. We would be better without Rafah crossing; at least we wouldn’t think about it!