There’s no place like home

The Erez checkpoint in the northern Gaza Strip on December 24, 2019

Tamam Abusalama writes in Mondoweiss, May 29, 2020:

I remember my happiness doubled when I learned I could bring one of my parents with me. I am 16 years old, it’s 2010 and I’m about to leave the Gaza Strip for the first time. I have a permit to exit from the Erez crossing in the north. I need this permit to get to the U.S. consulate where I have an appointment for an interview to get a visa. But first, I have to pick who will come with me, mom or dad?

They started fighting. Both have loads of memories and inherited memories attached to the other side of the border, the other side of Palestine. At this point I had none. I had only known growing up in a tiny corridor of land trapped with 2 million people. We call it the biggest open-air prison in the world. But outside these prison walls, is where my parents’ love story blossomed and they wanted to revisit that.

Ultimately we decided dad was a risky choice. He was previously a political prisoner, spending 18 years locked up, and we knew of too many stories of travelers whose documents were revoked because someone had been incarcerated. It was decided mom would go with me. She went to university there and hadn’t been back in 13 years.

The day we left Gaza, mom and I tried to emotionally support one another. In the morning we were stressed out by the thought of going through the Erez checkpoint. To enter the checkpoint, we walked one kilometer in a narrow caged walkway until we reached the first building. This meant we were entering the Israeli military’s side of the crossing.

Once our feet stepped onto the floor, a male voice ordered mama to undress. We were alone in a room and we didn’t know the source of the voice. Our necks shifted to scan the room. Finally we saw a woman and a man in a military uniform watching us from the second floor. They continued to give us orders by speaking into an intercom in their room, and the sound amplified by a speaker down below in our room.

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