Women in Bastan Village, Kurdistan

Sunday, August 22, 2010

From Ramallah to Eilat to Taba..Welcome to Egypt- Ramallah, W.B. –Eilat, Israel- Taba, Sinai Peninsula 080510

Yesterday was the last day of our internship, we met at Ramallah and had a meeting with journalists that work here in Palestine covering the Is/Pal conflict from the Palestinian perspective. We talked about the role of the media in this conflict and how the media shapes or determines what news is and what is not. To the question if there is a humanitarian crisis in Gaza they said that from their perception of how things look in the ground, supermarkets are full of food and chocolate and other supplies. If that is an indicator of a humanitarian crisis, then to their eyes there was no humanitarian crisis, but they left it clear that they are not the ones to determine that, they are just there and they describe the situation as they see it on the ground. They say they have free access to Gaza and they have been only prevented in cases of war, like last operation Cast Lead. They were clear that they only cover demonstrations and peace initiatives from either Palestinian or Israeli side based on numbers; they talked about the specific case of Sheikh Jarrah and the weekly demos because they have had numbers. From the Israeli perspective of the left initiatives he they said that they don’t pay attention at all the small initiatives because it can mislead the public. They said that people could think that this is what the whole population is leaning to, when in fact the reality is that the majority of the people in Israel, looking at the parliament composition is leaning to the right.

After the end of the day, we went back to Jerusalem through the Qalandia checkpoint, a checkpoint famous for its crowds of people, traffic and confrontations between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers. It was my first time through the Qalandia checkpoint, but I was ok because I was with the people from my group. We got into one of the buses and there was a big line to cross. When it was our turn, the soldiers went into the bus to check everyone. Reda, one of my friends, who is French-Moroccan, was nervous because he didn’t get a stamp at the airport, which could mean he can get into trouble when the soldiers come to check everyone’s passport. They do this often at the airport, so people don’t get easily into the West bank due to the security checks, he thought it was his last day on the country, because he might get deported or something like that. We all got through all right, including Reda….Then after we crossed, we had to change buses, not sure why, but here again, all complicated to the Palestinians or any one who dares to cross to and from the West Bank. We went into Jerusalem to the guys’ (Yuri and Jordan, two Jewish students from my internship) apartment in East Jerusalem. It was around 7pm which means it took us more than one hour to get from Ramallah to Jerusalem. I was supposed to get into a bus to Eilat at midnight to cross into Egypt. The guys ordered shawarma and then I went to take a so needed nap! When I woke up, it was time to get going to the bus station, my friend Mathilde had bought the tickets, she was going to Petra with some other friends and I was going to Egypt. Me and Justin walked into the bus station. He said it was a 40 minute walk and I was all the time complaining that if we were not in time I was going to kill him. Finally we got there like 15 minutes before the bus started to board. We got in, and there were more people than seats in the bus. There were three people laying in the floor, including one soldier with his big gun in his lap. It looked so funny to see the soldier, most probably tired and trying to get home, just laying there in the floor. We tried to sleep, in the back of the bus, but it was really uncomfortable, we were trying to get on top of one another trying to find a comfortable position to fall asleep, it never happened, when we did, the bus stopped for a break. We looked like a domino set, one on top of each other, legs, hands and heads. We got there at 4 am in the morning and there were no more bus service to the border, the taxis were expensive, and the drivers very rude. I started to walk away from the bus station to get another taxi hopefully less expensive, but in the end it was more or less the same, I saved 7 shekels (about $2). Finally, on the border I went through like in 2 minutes, I couldn’t believe that my friends were 2 hours on the customs, being questioned about their trip, but I just went though in 2 minutes. That is why I made the decision to make the trip though the land border crossing. It was safer and less stressful. Well, after I passed, I had still to go through the Egyptian security, in which the customs officer made me take uot my computer from my bag and he asked me to turn on my computer, and I thought, oh no, they changed the Israeli customs into the Egyptian border, so when I was turning on my computer, he said ok, YOU CAN GO! Crazy….But that’s not all. I had a small problem and that was that my Egyptian re-entry visa was expired, I knew it but I forgot. When I left Egypt I got a re-entry visa at the border, this is just to avoid going into the consulate to get another entry visa, what I forgot was that the visa was only valid for one month and my stay in Israel was of 1 month 5 days……So, I tried to get away with it and put an 8 into the date in the re-entry visa (a little bit of corruption) meaning August 29 instead of July 29. The Egyptian officer stamped my visa and then realized that there was something wrong. He said that I could not go to Cairo, that I needed to go back to Eilat, Israel (thank you) to get a new visa…..and he CANCELED my stamp. He gave me a 15-day Sinai only visa, but banned me to go to Cairo….. Thank you Egyptian custom officer I liked the Israeli custom better. Well, I was too tired to complain, so I will attempt to go to Cairo unnoticed or see what else I can do but I’m not going back through Israeli customs to get an Egyptian visa, no way. These Egyptians are crazy, every country gives a 3-month multiple entry visa, I don’t have money for this……the best is to come, an Egyptian looking puertorican trying to pass Egyptian security to make it into Cairo……(here: mission impossible music!)

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