How does life look outside of Gaza?!
I have always asked myself what a young man in his twenties – exactly like me – is doing in another part of the world? How will I get through my twenties without having tried great experiences?
I haven’t tried to jump from a plane, camp in nature, or even meditate at the foot of a mountain, inside a church, temple or silo of other religions. I haven’t met a foreigner, haven’t learnt new languages, or got to know different cultures, haven’t played saxophone or any other musical instrument. I haven’t tried working in a restaurant or other part-time jobs that could reimburse my university fees, like those whose struggle I read about in stories sold in the oasis of libraries.
Unfortunately, with travel restrictions imposed on the Gaza Strip, Gazans have been robbed of diversity and the opportunity to discover other cultures.
I remember when I first got a scholarship to study in Antalya, Turkey, I was extremely happy. I immediately applied for a visa and went through the trouble of documentation and letters of testimony. It was especially difficult as the documents had to be ratified in Ramallah, and since I couldn’t get there in person the whole procedure was very expansive. Eventually, I got the visa.
Now was the moment of truth and a new process of suffering, to get out of the Gaza which included waiting for an approval for the convoy of passengers to exit to Egypt, and the registration and border crossing itself. I struggled for an entire year to get out of Gaza, and eventually my scholarship had expired. I could not get out, and I was very disappointed not because I did not travel, but because I deserved something much better than all this misery.
Now I asked: what does it take for young men in other places to travel?
But I did not despair, and sometime later I got another Erasmus scholarship to study in Spain. “I told you I deserved the best,” I said to myself.
I knew I will have to go through all the stages of suffering and tribulation as before. Yes, I repeated all the steps that I’d done to get a Turkish visa, but this time I was finally successful to cross out of the Gaza Strip and on to the Egyptian side!
Here the journey started. I did not salute my family upon leaving as I should have, because I didn’t think I’d make it out of the Rafah border. Here my feelings of joy mix with sadness – I spent 3 days of fear and fatigue at the border waiting for the authorities to take me to Cairo airport.
I spent those days in a place without facilities, without the basic necessities of life for travellers, having to bribe many people one after the other so they won’t send me back to Gaza. I paid those bribes with a fake smile upon my face.
I did all this in order to complete my journey; to try life outside our borders, a new lifestyle, to see how Western people think and live. To experience the life of a European university student. I finally got to my destination – Spain – and started studying. I wanted to stay for another semester, but the borders to Gaza were about to close for a long time. I did not want to sacrifice my university life in Gaza, so I had to return beforehand.
I returned to Gaza satisfied with the period I lived in Spain; I finally lived and experienced new things even if it was for a short time. Simply, dear, in Gaza you do not look for an exorbitant richness or extravagance. I do not seek anything but sincere happiness, I want to work in my field of interest, make a good income so I can save some money and give some to charity, have simple home with a garden or a swing.
I want constant electricity – uninterrupted – without running my schedule according to power cuts. Without worrying that I may lose access to the Internet at any moment or lose the entire thing because of a power cut. Without having to stay up late just to iron my clothes. Without my mother having to wake up in the middle of the night to make bread for us. Without my father checking the water pump morning and evening, telling me to turn it on.
I want to wake up when this dream becomes a reality. When I have the ability to travel without waiting years for the crossing to open. Without waiting in a queue of thousands of names. I’m not looking for first-class travel. I just want to know more about the world outside of Gaza.