Where we can never meet again: Separated at home, together only abroad

I packed my bags at night after I said goodbye to many of my friends who came from all over the West Bank to see me in Ramallah. I was overwhelmed by the chaos of scattering thoughts on my mind. I’m going to America! The thought excited me but also tired me because I knew it wouldn’t be an easy trip. Anyone who holds a Palestinian passport and lives in the West Bank is subjected to an entire day of intense interrogation passing to Jordan. I made sure I wore nothing metallic and that I had my passport, my green Jordanian card, my Israeli tax, and my Palestinian ID put safely in a reachable place. Most importantly, I made sure my psychological state of being is prepared for a long day going through the Palestinian stop, the Israel stop and finally to the Jordanian stop. Palestinians from the West Bank can only fly through Jordan. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have voluntarily chosen to go through all of this mess.

Palestine is divided to three parts: West bank, Gaza, and what is now called Israel. The color of your ID defines the restrictions one is subjected to. I have a green ID therefore, I cannot enter ‘Israel’ nor can I go to Gaza and I can only travel through Jordan. Those who live in Gaza are subjected to the same restrictions regarding travelling locally and internationally. However, they travel through Egypt since they share a border. I reached Amman’s airport after a busy tiring day. I checked my bags in and thought of my approaching flight to Seattle. Two months earlier, I was accepted to the American State Department program called New Media and Journalism. I was part of twenty Arab participants and four from Palestine. I was excited because I have never met people from the gulf, Iraq, Yemen, and most importantly from Gaza.

We landed in America after a tough fourteen-hour flight. I was exhausted and jet lagged. We were picked up from the airport to Washington State University campus. My roommate was a Palestinian girl from Gaza named Walaa. I believe we shared the same state of exhaustion. We didn’t have much of a fruitful conversation and decided to go sleep. We woke up to a new and unknown atmosphere. Everything around us seemed very different and somehow overwhelming; the greenery, the large landscape, and each other. After having started classes Walaa and I were already developing a good bond. The friendship we had was not only based on our Palestinian identity but also the fact that we’re estranged in a country that lies thousands of miles away from home. And though she lived in Gaza that I have never seen, we always referred to one home. Palestine without borders and colorless ID’s were more realistic in America. Distance has that impact on people for they start believing the surreal.

After having experienced the independent life in the free country of America, I thought of freedom more closely. It seemed unreachable in Palestine but for the first time I’ve felt freedom everywhere around me.  And after sharing a room with this person whom I never thought would become one of the dearest people to my heart, I thought of how great it was. But as the trip came to an end I started feeling suffocated once again. I wanted to curse freedom but I was still on the free soil. I remember when I said goodbye to Walaa at the airport. It was such a random see-you-later goodbye because I was still occupied with colorless ID’s and freedom. She landed in Egypt and I landed in Jordan. We’re both in Palestine now but somehow freedom is only on the American soil where we can meet. Our ID’s regained their colors and reality finally hit me.

 

Nour Hamayel

Nour Hamayel is a Palestinian living in Ramallah. She is an undergraduate student majoring in Literature at Al-Quds Bard Honors college

 

 

Comments

  1. This is a great post. BTW great photo of both you as well. I am glad you got to experience the program and experience America even if it was for a short time. I hope things are well with you and someday freedom will be closer than a jet ride away.

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