September 17th 1993 was the first time for me to ever enter Gaza. I was roughly 6 years old. I thought we were visiting Gaza for a short visit and then go back to the UAE where, to me, was my homeland. You can barely find a 5-year-old kid that can distinguish between homeland and where they live right now. Homeland is more about loving the land, fighting, struggling, learning, and any other activity that would grow the love of homeland in one’s heart.
June 2nd 2011 was the first time for me to ever see the border. On the gates, I was literally jumping out of excitement that I have finally seen what is the border like with my own eyes. There was security by the gate and this huge gate, and many people were outside waiting either for friends or relatives to arrive or waiting for some traveller who wants to get the bags carried to a taxi, as a way of breadwinning.
As I waited for over 20 minutes in the hot sun waiting for the guards to let me in, I witnessed how it is like to arrive for the first time in so many years. Hugging each other so hard, kissing each other’s cheeks. And what were heart-touching the most is the happy tears. I could feel a lot whenever I witness such scenes.
As we entered the gates, we took a taxi to take us to the departure hall, where I entered with total excitement. I look around and all I see is tired people with pale looks and hopelessness. It was 4 PM by then and the borders close at 6 PM. Kids, old men and women.
The people there were of almost all ranges of ages. I talked to a few of them asking them about what is happening and why are they still in the departure hall. Finally, I cam up to the conclusion that the Egyptians don’t let more than 350-400 passengers pass a day.
After an interview with Lt. Baraka, I realized that-according to what he said-is that the border is open normally and the problem is from the Egyptian side as they allow no more than 350-400 passenger cross a day, which is considered a tragedy compared to times when over 3000 passengers used to cross Rafah border daily.
On my way back to the gate, I went back to the departure hall to interview someone. The whole atmosphere is very depressing and heartbreaking. And it shows how much the Palestinians in Gaza suffer even when they want to travel.
During my first visit ever to Rafah Border’s departure hall, I interviewed someone
This man has a daughter who has an Egyptian passport and 3 little kids. They have been going to Rafah border for 3 days on a row and still they didn’t let them in. The Video doesn’t have English subtitles. Sorry
following is a video report by Democracy Now!’s Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar were one of the few teams of foreign journalists to witness the scene at the Rafah border and they file this report from the Gaza Strip.