Flashes from my Diary in the last couple of weeks.
It’s 3 am and I feel completely drained, yet I still can’t get myself to sleep. My heart starts to physically ache and I know it’s a sign that I need to empty the overload of my feelings and emotions into words.
Seven days to my flight that I won’t be in. Seven days to all the faces I won’t see. Seven days to the hugs I won’t get. Seven days to me losing faith, hope and bright. Seven days till all the color disappears from my eyes.
It’s a fancy airline. Two stops, in which I’m allowed to leave the airport. Aisle seats in all of the six planes, which is weird to me. In my trip to the USA last summer, I had a window seat in all of my flights.
Last summer I represented Gaza at the Middle East partnership Initiative student leaders program. I spent six weeks at the University of Delaware with 23 awesome young leaders from all over the MENA region. We became a Family. We shared so much and the adventures we lived together built up ties between us that were as strong as blood ties. We were called “Blue Hens MEPIs”.
After six months, exactly in March, there was a reunion conference to discuss youth and development with some experts and share the projects we worked on after we went back home and I missed the conference. I got the Turkish Visa, I got my e-tickets but I couldn’t make it to the airport.
For a Gazan to travel from Erez Crossing there are many boxes to check , the first thing you need is a purpose. A scholarship, a conference, a workshop, a training program, you are dying and need urgent medical help; you name it. Tourism and vacations are not valid reasons of course. Then you need to get the purpose papers right, the invitations or medical reports. Then you apply for the visa.
Now the Visa stage is kind of tricky as most of the embassies are based in Ramallah and Jerusalem. Some Visas require an interview, like the American Visa, in this case you will need to apply to an Israeli Permit and wait until you get it. If you get accepted then you are “the luckiest on earth” because for most of young Gazans it’s their first time out of Gaza and they will finally go to Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa mosque. However if you get rejected then you keep applying until it’s too late or until you know the reason behind the rejection, which is usually “security issues”. A friend of mine was told that, even though she poses as much threat as a pink fluffy smiling teddy bear!
If the Visa does not need an interview, like the Turkish visa, then you just mail your papers to the embassy and wait until it’s issued then you call any mailing office and ask them to bring it for you. This costs around $30 without the visa fees.
The Visa is not only important for you to enter the country you are going, but also is important to help you get the Non-objection certificate (NOC). Which is the permit that allows you to enter Jordan to go to the airport. Gazans travel from Jordan’s airports because our airport was destroyed in 2002 after only 2-3 years of service – that’s another sad story for another time.
Recently Getting the NOC has been like winning the lottery. Someone is going to get it, but it’s not you or anyone you know. It’s so difficult to get. It’s the reason I missed the conference in Turkey actually, even though we -Gazan MEPIs- applied for it three times, it was still all in vain. We didn’t stop there, we started a campaign on twitter to ask the Queen of Jordan to help us, we made a petition and collected more than 1000 signatures.We emailed everyone that can possibly help too. That didn’t work either.
I didn’t lose hope until the conference started, I kept my positive attitude until my friends were like “What did hope get you?” “Look at you now! Does hope get anything done for you?” I didn’t have answers and I let it go.
I was looking forward to it so much, I really wanted to see all the leaders again, they are more than family to me.
The thing that helped me to get over that huge disappointment and heartbreak fast was my work, at that time I was leading more than 200 young youth in implementing more than 15 initiatives in different fields.
Now, what happens If you get the non objection paper? If you apply to a normal NOC then you will know if you are accepted or rejected in 2 months however if you applied for urgent NOC you will know in 20 days or less, of course the pricing differs. If you get it then you can apply to the Israeli permit to enter Israel then Jordan to go to the Airport.
Every paper depends on the other, you need a Visa to get the NOC and you need the NOC to get an Israeli permit. And every paper has it’s own drama and waiting.
After you go through all that and get out of Gaza, there’s no reasonable reason to make you go back to there again, right?!
My friends are leaving
Today I spent the evening with some of my old friends, it’s been a year since I last saw them, there was so much to catch up on. I went home after midnight, on my way home I started crying and reminiscing about a conversation I had earlier with one of them.
Jehad told me about his achievements and I was so happy and proud, then he started to tell me all about his plans to leave. He has not one, not two but three plans to leave Gaza for good. While he was going on explaining the details, I gazed away trying to absorb the anger I was feeling. I took a deep breath and told him “So that’s how it’s going to be, all talented and awesome people are leaving for good?” “I know how much you deserve a better life and better opportunities, but please come back to Gaza to build hope if not homes” I continued.
“Dalia” with a tender voice. He looked at his hands and continued “stop looking at me as a leader for once. Look at me as a human,” moving his eyes to mine “I am now 26 years old and I still haven’t started building my life, when will I? I wonder if I will ever be able to get married.. To have a child and see her growing up.”
He’s not the only one of my friends who’s leaving for good. They keep joking and telling me “We shall meet overseas,” It worries me a lot. I wonder if I will end up thinking like them.
The past two days I have been more of a Zombie. A version of me that I rarely encounter. I barely move out of bed, push notifications on my phone away without seeing them. soullessly playing my puzzle game, I keep playing till the Ipad die or gets too hot to hold. I love playing puzzle games, I feel like they are a training that would help trying to solve the puzzle of my life, if that’s even possible.
Again, I find myself using my words to dry up my tears, to fix my broken smile and to regain the brightness and color in my eyes.
I am sorry this is Sad. I am sorry it’s not as hopeful as it should be. I am sorry I am losing myself. I feel like I can’t do it anymore. I cant be the most optimistic girl in Gaza. you have no idea how exhausting that is. I am alone, against almost every Gazan’s thoughts. Countless arguments to convince people to merely let the bright side shine it’s way to their hearts.
Five days until the flight that I will miss. Five days to the cerulean sky that I won’t trace with my eyes. Five days to the clouds that I won’t wink to. Five days to the sound of my bag being dragged one mile behind me in Erez crossing.
Last month I received an email telling me I was selected to represent the Palestinian youth for the first time in the 2nd workshop for young leaders on Global citizenship education in South Korea. 50 young leaders from all over the world were selected this year from 2000 applicants!
My reaction to the email instantly was “OH MY GOD NO!” I knew the drama I would be living in until the program is over, I knew there’s not enough time to get all the permits, each paper needs more than 3 weeks and you need one to get the other. I emailed the organizers to ask if they were going to offer any facilitation, but they couldn’t, I was left on my own. I decided to throw my dice and try. I already have an unused visa on my passport, “Why not have another one?” I thought.
Now comes the visa drama, thank God no interview was required and I only had to send my papers. The timing was awful, there was a Jewish holiday and the mail needed about 5 days to get delivered. I marched from one mail office to another just in hope to hear a different answer. There wasn’t, nor were there any other options.
The Korean embassy was really helpful and they issued the visa quickly. I received it in a week. Which meant there were only two weeks left to get the rest of papers.
NOC, which if I’ve never seen or touched with my own hands before I’d say it’s a myth. I went to apply for a one knowing no way it will be issued in time. The office I applied from advised me not to, and told me it’s a waste of money ($30-ish). They told me to try calling the Jordanian embassy and try to find connections. I tried to skip this step and just apply for Israeli permit but there was no way out of it.
In brief, I knocked on every door, made all the calls, tried to find connections, begged, cried my eyes out…etc. Sometimes people would give me hope to hold on to, other times they would take it back, playing me like a yoyo.
I survived this before, why am I so sad? Even though a handful of people who knew about this opportunity all told me to let it go and stop being obsessed with trying again and again. They told me “You should adapt to life in Gaza, you should know what you can and cannot have.” “You knew your chances are close to none. DO NOT BE A DRAMA QUEEN.” And many other things were said to me to whip my pale face with.
I did not tell a lot of people about this new opportunity because most would tell me the same thing they said when I couldn’t make it to Turkey. “You had a chance to get out of Gaza, most of us did not. Stop acting like a spoiled princess” “You are so lucky! You’ve been out. Shut up.” Lucky? Really? I am not lucky.I work really hard to earn every opportunity I get. It’s basically like planting a tree and every time the flowers blossom or the fruits ripen the tree dies. My dreams and ambitions will end up turning my soul into an arid black-and-white garden.
A couple of days ago I was talking to a dear Canadian friend, she was comforting me, she kept telling me that many opportunities are yet to come. I told her that isn’t what scares me, what scares me the most is leaving Gaza filled with hatred and grudges. I can’t leave Gaza hating the life in it. I simply can’t. I need to have a reason and a passion to go back and build new things and share my experiences.
I’m not just sad because I’m going to miss the great opportunity of meeting the young leaders, learn about what they’re doing in their communities and see their new smiles. But also because in my first stop I was looking forward to seeing my uncle who I haven’t seen in 5 years, and my new cousins that I have never met and the others who I haven’t seen in 15 years! I wanted a family reunion even if it’s just an hour in a café near the airport. It won’t be enough but I really need to see my cousins for once!
Another thing I was looking forward to is meeting three people from my Blue Hens family, two in 48 lands and one in Jordan. I wanted to have one more selfie with them.
All that I am not going to have, feel, see. I imagined it though, it felt ethereal. I wince when I think that all I am getting out of these new opportunities is just some minutes of imagination in an attempt to satisfy my longings.
For the first time in my life, I am scared to have hope, I am scared that I am not strong enough to deal with another disappointment. For the first time in my life I heard a voice inside my head that’s telling me to drop it and stop trying. How can I think of something as immortal while seeing it die in front of my eyes!
I feel empty, scared and confused. Can you imagine having to go to work and smile for other people with all this in your heart and mind? Do you have any idea how many different opportunities I’ve stopped myself from submitting to after writing up their entire applications?!
Silly me, most of my salary was put in a “travelling” jar. Now I am considering living the life that other people have. I’ll try to learn to accept the injustice and kill my youth. I’d rather kill my youth with my own hands than let anyone else do it for me.
Even though I don’t know who to really blame. Israel for the siege? Hamas and Fateh for the division? The president for not giving a damn? Jordan for not being so loving? Every country who’s watching? My parents for bringing me up here in my country? Myself for not dying younger? Tell me whom to blame?
I keep thinking is it really worth it to live at the edge of a heart attack only because I am ambitious?
I am sorry. Truly I am.
After writing this I received great news from Mahmoud, a friend who has been trying to leave for a scholarship he got in Germany, he was trying to leave for more than a year! He made it five times to the Rafah-Egypt crossing . But they have always sent him back. I say goodbye to him every time! And I welcome him back in the next morning. Phew Finally!
I know that anything could happen in five days. I know this opportunity could end up not going to waste. I could actually leave for the workshop. I know I will hold to the slightest atom of hope this is what I do, this is what I owe to myself.
Today is my Graduation ceremony, Tomorrow is my birthday. I did not make it to the workshop. Honestly, It was easier to deal with not going than not knowing if you will or will not go. The uncertainty and holding to the slightest ray of hope were the burden before.
I got a flight reminder on my cell phone, I smiled and stopped the alarm and continued my work day normally. I would be lying if i say it didn’t hurt or I am not hurt. I am hurt. I feel like a different person but it was easier and less intense I guess.
My friend who made it to the workshop were very supportive. They kept sending me pictures, videos and their love and support, it helped me going through it smoothly and less painfully.
Living in Gaza is a full time job. A job that no one wants to do but it has to be done until a raid or a missile ends it.