Travelling has always been a luxury for my generation, a fantasy we can only imagine and dream about. Well, forget about traveling. Even visiting other regions in our own country is difficult as hell. If you want me to give you an example, then let me tell you that we are forced to communicate with our own people through digital screens only, no actual eye contact, no real gatherings, just virtual ones.
The suffering doesn't end here. To make things just worse, not only are people in Gaza City paralyzed and forbidden to move about in their own town, but more Palestinians outside Palestine are stuck on the outside, and just paying a visit to their families is a risk in and of itself. It is like a curse that accompanies you from birth; when you're Palestinian, suffering becomes a lifestyle for you, and it’s twice as bad if you are from Gaza.
When I was growing up, I was always familiar with the idea that we people of Gaza used to have an airport in Rafah city (the city that borders Egypt). Then one day, the ‘Israeli’ forces decided that we didn’t need to have an airport of our own anymore, and that we should stay in the big prison they have created for us, so they simply bombed the entire place and smashed it into pieces. They were clearly declaring, “If we can’t occupy Gaza and add another piece of land to our collection, then we should transform this little, tiny place into a cage with thousands of prisoners in it and deprive them of their right to choose their own destiny.”
I have an aunt who lives in Egypt with her husband and their children, and I barely remember what she looks like. Of course, that would be expected because the last time I saw her was when I was 10, and I’m 22 now! It was even more tragic when my grandma passed away where she lived, in Khan Younis in southern Gaza. My aunt couldn’t even say goodbye to the mother she had always missed or look at her beautiful face for the last time. She risked her life to illegally travel from Egypt to Gaza, but she couldn't come before the third day of the funeral (Islamic funerals last for three days), and she didn’t even have enough time to spend with her sisters (she is the oldest) because, her presence being illegal, she had to return to Egypt as soon as she could.
I have heard many stories from people I know, and about people I don’t know, who were poorly and inhumanely treated at the Rafah border as they were heading either to or from Gaza. Normally, the journey takes four or more days to reach one of the two destinations, but if you pay extra money — that is difficult enough to get — you can get the VIP treatment to reach your destination in a day and a half.
Hearing such stories just makes me horrified by the idea that one day, I’m going to be in the same position. I am looking for a fully-funded scholarship to get my master's degree abroad in socio-linguistics, and to leave Gaza I may have to travel from through Rafah into Egypt. It will be challenging enough to not get killed in an accident on the road, as the route to Arish, a city in the north on Egypt’s Sinai peninsula, is nothing but a desert road. I wonder if, once I am out, would I think of returning back to visit my country, where my family and friends are, and relive the whole experience all over again?
I may sound sarcastic here — and I am not sure if it is the healthiest way to express my thoughts, but maybe sarcasm helps me absorb these painful facts — that as Gazans, we are not able to travel and move freely as people of many other nationalities can. As for the future, I have neither knowledge nor hope. It’s a risky adventure that we must go through: achieve the minimum loss while it costs us an arm and a leg to search for a decent, normal life to live.