What is it about kids (and veiled women) that manages to clear a row of passengers in an airplane faster than the plague? Don’t get me wrong-I didn’t mind the eye-rolling and huffs-and-puffs of agitated (and clearly childless) passengers one bit (including the snazzy Italian couple perusing through fashion magazines who snapped at Yousuf for taking their empty plastic bag)-it meant Yousuf and I got a whole row to ourselves. And despite the ceaseless wailing of the children in front of us (to the mother’s vain attempts to read “Barny Goes to the Zoo” 20 different ways), Yousuf was an angel-I guess compared to Rafah Crossing, this was a 5-star hotel.
In case it’s not clear already, my family and I have safely made it to the United States to visit my husband and brothers. It’s taken me nearly a week to recover from the hellish journey across Rafah Crossing (which is still closed off, sealing in 1.4 million Palestinian in Gaza), bombs-dropping behind us and F-16s swooping down into Gaza’s skyline (which managed to shatter our living room windows, along with several nearby schools').
I still can’t believe we made it across, I keep having nightmares that I am stuck in the crossing with Yousuf, sitting on the floor with thousands of others, being told I can’t get across.
While in transit in London’s Hethrow airport, our flight coincided with a flight headed to Tel Aviv. The bus that transported us from one terminal to another was full of holiday-happy Israelis, chatting nonchalantly in a Hebrew that I half-understood, arms laden with shopping bags from London boutiques.
I wondered if they had ever met a Palestinian; if they had the slightest idea what I had to go through to get here; how it felt to cross Rafah with a 18 month old child; or if they did, but simply preferred to screen out that ugly reality for which their country is responsible from their lives. That is what Gaza is about after all. Out of sight. Out of mind. In less than a few hours they would be back to their homes, flying carefree to the same area of land from which it had taken me weeks in waiting to begin to travel across; 24 hours to cross, several more days to re-book my flight; and another week to recover. That is the daily irony of our existence.
For now, I am just trying to enjoy my time here, to observe Ramadan; to recover; to take in the past few months. Every now and then I hear a helicopter, innocuously monitoring traffic, and I duck for cover. I am still jittery and on edge. The jagged transition from battered Gaza to picture-perfect suburbia, USA is mentally tasking.