After a brief 5 day hiatus to the Egyptian border town of al-Arish, we are back in Gaza. Yousuf and I left rather suddenly to meet up with my parents and my brother Tariq, who had come from the states for a brief vacation. He was afraid if he came to Gaza, he’d get stuck due to an Israeli rule banning Palestinian men and boys between the aqges of 16-35 from leaving the Strip.
So once again Yousuf and I braved the labyrinths of the Rafah crossing (aka, the Rafah border tourist resort). Leaving wasn’t so bad. And the three days we spent on a chalet on the beach were incredibly relaxing. Coming back, though, was a blast (no pun intended).
The highlight of the return journey (besides having to change Yousuf’s poopy diaper on an open sidewalk with inept Egyptian soldiers behind me and Israeli tanks in front of me) was a conversation I had with an Israeli soldier after 4 hours of waiting in a bus crammed to capacity.
It went something like this:
My mother: Why are you making my husband wait for so long while you search a small carry-on bag?
Soldier: It’s for your protection. What if there was a bomb in there?
My mother: Has there ever, in all the time you’ve been here, been a bomb smuggled into luggage on the crossing??
Soldier: [Silence]. Why are you so angry? Aren’t you comfortable here on the Israeli side? Its air-conditioned you know.
Me: You do realize we just spent 4 hours in an aging, un-airconditioned bus with a 14-month old baby?
Soldier: Yes, but that’s not our fault, we would never subject you to such conditions here on the Israeli side. Here, you can relax
Me: Are you aware that the reason we wait in that horrible bus in the blazing heat for hours on end is because you so command it? We aren't allowed out of the bus, or through to the Israeli side, until the Egyptians get your approval.
Me: And isn't true that on certain days, when it suits your fancy, you let as many buses as you can through as quickly as possible, but on other days like today, you let the people suffer and marinate in there?
Soldier: That’s true…
Soldier: I really don’t know
Soldier’s superior [In Hebrew]: Come here and stop talking to her. And tell her to get off the search table she’s sitting on. Its not proper.
Soldier: He says to get off the search table. He says “its not proper”
Me: NOT PROPER??? Where do I begin with what’s “not proper”. Is making 100 sick children, elderly folks, men, women, and infants wait in a 60-seat bus for 4 hours without allowing them out for air proper??? [Laila walks away irate, chasing after Yousuf, who has made a game out of the baggage conveyor]
End of conversation.