Note: As you will see in the following post, I am mentioning a few things rather oddly and not so at the same time. The terms Occupiers, Occupied, and Occupia will be mentioned rather than Israelis, Palestinians, and Palestine because “names do not matter.” I’ll get to that point in a future post.
On the land of Occupia*, there are borders called checkpoints that restrict the Occupied* from moving around on their own will. These borders always have Occupiers* on them, imposing their security checks on everyone that isn’t an Occupier. Security measures are not the only ones taken. There are also interrogations if you look suspicious or dare look them in the eye. Securing and questioning…
Indeed, there is a question that the Occupiers on the borders surrounding Occupia always ask the Occupied on their way to the next city- even if that city is barely twenty minutes away from the border line they are standing on, mind you. Can you guess what the question is?
Only if you walk in my shoes or any other Occupied’s shoes will you know what the question is. No, scratch that. Even if you are a foreigner from any place coming to Occupia, the Occupiers will decide whether or not they will grant you the answer to this question if you were ever asked on a different border. Do you know what the question is?
If you know the answer, you may remember a personal experience that is similar to the one I am about to share. If not, well, I’ll get to the answer at the end.
On Wednesday, I went to the university I attend to fix my schedule and add some classes. Since it is Ramadan, it was such a hot day, and I was so thirsty after all that walking back and forth from the councelor’s office to the office where I volunteer at to the beginning of campus. Still, I decided to hang around Ramallah for a little while with two of my good friends, as one of them needed to get a few things.
Once in Ramallah though, I get a call from my Aunt asking if I would like to go with her and my cousin to Jerusalem.
“Okay, I’ll call Mom and ask her,” I said, in Arabic.
“She’s the one that suggested,” my Aunt replied.
I was excited! I get to go twice to Jerusalem this month? Awesome! I had went to Jeursalem at the beginning of Ramadan on a Friday because the Occupiers were actually generous and let all females, no matter the age, into the Holy city. But then I remembered…
“But I don’t have a visa,” I said.
“I think they’ll let you in,” my Aunt replied. “They let everyone in yesterday.” (Yesterday was Lailatul Qadr, the Night of Power for Muslims. Over 400,000 Muslims went to the prayers held at Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock).
Even though it was hot, and I was planning on walking home at two in the daylight since I was in a good mood, I was feeling lucky and agreed.
“If they send me back, they send me back.”
My father picked me up from Ramallah instead of my intended walk, and as soon as I got home, I put my phone and camera to charge and rushed to take a shower. What’s the point when I’m going to be in the heat again with so much people probably waiting for a good hour or more?
After that, I grabbed my passport and went with my Aunt and cousin to drop their car off at my Grandpa’s house so we could grab a serivce taxi from the street there. Riding the service taxi, I made a silent prayer, hoping I would get into Jerusalem.
When the taxi dropped us off in front of one of the many borders that the Occupiers have set, many people were coming from the border rather than going. Good. It doesn’t look like the wait will be long in this heat. I forgot that they were the Occupiers, and I was from the Occupied.
Waiting between two by ten foot- I approximate, more or less- metal poles as if I were in a jail cell, I looked at everyone in front of me. There were mothers carrying their infants. There were little children sticking their heads between the poles. There were old men and women leaning on them. There was the youth. Everyone was frustrated, waving their identity cards and papers in their faces from the heat.
When the line picked up and everyone was beginning to move, it was time to go by the security check areas and possibly interrogations for some people. It was hot, and the wait was long. One of the Occupiers was saying things through the microphone in Arabic. Each of the Occupied looked around with question marks on their faces. What the heck is she saying? I guess you could say that after forty-five minutes from standing on that line, she told everyone to move somewhere else…that this desk was “closed now.”
The Occupied cursed her under their breaths and ran to find a desk with less people waiting. That wasn’t possible, of course. The lines were all long…each longer than the next.
The Occupiers only let two or three of the Occupied in at a time. You place your belongings on the table, you go through the security check “beep thing” (as I like to call it), and then you pretty much….get yelled at.
When it was one man’s turn, the Occupiers told him to turn back because he was not allowed to enter. He stood there for a good five minutes yelling at them, telling him they have no right to be making such calls. Everyone on the side I was standing were looking at each other, all saying the same thing. “He’s not making it any easy on us. Watch when it is our turn. For all we know, they could send us all back.” Indeed, they could.
He’s not making it any easy on us? Nothing and no one is making it easy on anyone in Occupia.
It was finally our turn. My Aunt and cousin had previously applied for a visa to enter whereas I haven’t, so they put that silly piece of paper on their window, were checked and kept going.
I took out my American passport and put it on the window. One of the Occupiers looked at it, then at me, then at it again.
I showed her a stamp I had gotten from New York- I was feeling lucky, remember?
“Visa? No visa!”
“No! No visa.” And then, she said something in Hebrew. I assumed it was turn back. I did, cursing her out under my breath.
“Where do I go home from?” I asked a lady.
“There. Where you came from.” She pointed.
I reached home, and I was asked by everyone, “Oh, they asked to see a visa?”
I knew from the start that there was a 99.9% chance I will be sent back home. I mean it happened to me before in 2008, and it continues to happen to many more people trying to move around Occupia everyday.
As I rode a service taxi home, I thought of the people I saw at the border, but this time I saw more than just the Occupied. The mothers holding their infants had an expression on their faces reading “I want a better future and more freedom for my children than this present.” The little children’s faces read of confusion, “Why can’t everyone get along?” The elderly looked around them in despair, wishing time would go back to when they could move freely around Occupia. The youth wondered as I had wondered when I turned back the way I had turned back four years ago. Why did I allow that?
Indeed, I was frustrated that I had to turn back the way I did four years ago. I did not say a thing but curse them under my breath. Was it fear or was it loss of faith?
As for the question, I am sure you have already got that down. “Where’s Visa?” She’s famous, is she not?
On the last day of Ramadan, let’s make a prayer, whether you are a Muslim or not. I pray that there will be no borders stopping the Occupied from moving around Occupia. I pray that Muslims and Christains around the world get to reach the Holy cites of Jerusalem and pray in them because religion is a spiritual thing that should not be restricted by any means, and these holy cites are for everyone. I pray that “Visa” won’t be famous anymore.