Raising Yousef and Noor blog, April 14, 2009 - "Its not very comfortable in there is it?" said the stony faced official, cigarette smoke forming a haze around his gleaming oval head.
"Its OK. We're fine," I replied wearily, delirious after being awake for a straight period of 30 hours.
"You could be in there for days, you know. For weeks. Indefinitely. "So, tell me, you are taking a plane tomorrow morning to the US?"
It was our journey home that began with the standard packing frenzy: squeezing everything precious and dear and useful into two suitcases that would be our sustenance for the course of 3 months.
The trips to the outdoor recreation store- in preparation for what I anticipated to be a long and tortuous journey across Rafah Crossing to Gaza. The inspect repellent; the mosquito netting; the water purifier; the potty toppers for my kids and the dried fruit and granola bars and portion sized peanut butter cups. This time, I wanted to be ready, I thought to myself-just in case I got stuck at the Crossing. The Crossing. My presumptuousness is like a dull hit to the back of my head now.
In addition to all the packing of suitcases, we were also packing up our house- my husband was finishing up his residency at duke University and set to start a medical fellowship at Johns Hopkins in July. In the meantime, we were "closing shop", putting our things in storage, selling the rest, and heading overseas: me to Gaza, he to Lebanon to visit his family.
Eventually I was too meet him there (assuming i could get into Gaza, and the, assuming I could get out). Yassine is a third-generation Palestinian refugee from the village of Waarit al-Siris in nothern historic Palestine; he was born in a refugee camp in Lebanon and holds a laissez passer for Palestinian refugees. Israel denies him return to his own home- or even to the home of his spouse in Gaza. So when we go overseas, we often go our separate ways; we cannot live legally, as a unit, as a family, in our own homes.
I hold a Palestinian Authority passport. It replaced the "temporary two-year Jordanian passport for Gaza residents" that we held until the Oslo Accords and the creation of the Palestinian Authority in the mid '90s, which itself replaced the Egyptian travel documents we held before that. A progression in a long line of stateless documentation....
Laila el-Haddad, a Gazan journalist who is living in the United States, recently traveled to Egypt to try and enter Gaza and see her parents, who were stuck there during the war. She blogs at Raising Yousef and Noor.