The waiting game
We’ve been in Al-Arish 48 hours now. Our journey, not including the days spent in Doha, has spanned more than 5 days now.
We’ve rented a small beachside vacation flat here. They are cheap-cheaper than Cairo, and certainly cheaper than hotels and are usually rented out to Palestinians like us, waiting for the border to open. Its low season now, and the going rate is a mere $12 a night. In the summer, rates jump to a minimum of $35 a night. We can afford it. But for many Palestinians who come to Egypt for medical treatment, and without large amounts of savings, even this meager rental fee can begin to add up.
We went downtown today to buy some more food. We are buying in small rations, “just in the case the border opens tomorrow”. I feel like we've repeated that rephrain a hundred times already. I go and check my email. I feel very alone; no one cares, no one knows, no one bothers to know. This is how Palestinian refugees must feel every day of their lives.
Even those in Gaza and the West Bank. We discriminate. There are “muwatineen”-residents, and “lajieen”, refugees. And the refugees on the outside, in Lebanon and Syria and all over cannot vote in our elections (while Iraqi refugees did in their elections). They feel abandoned, even by their own government.
I read the news, skimming every headline and searching for anything about Rafah. Nothing. One piece about the Palestinian football team; another about the European monitors renewing their posts for another 6 months. We do not exist.
If you are “lucky” enough to be stuck here during times of extended closure, when things get really bad-when enough Palestinians die on the border waiting, or food and money are scarce enough for the Red Cross to get involved, then maybe, maybe you’ll get a mention. And people will remember there are people waiting to be let through. To be possessed once again; to be reclaimed and returned to what? To something that is neither here nor there. Full of pessoptimists and absurdity and people who wait. Waiting their entire lives. What has Gaza become after all?
But now, even though Rafah has been more or less closed for more than 6 months- with an occasional day of opening every few weeks, it is no longer newsworthy. Such is the state of the media- what is once abhorred becomes the status quo and effectively accepted.
So now we are back in the flat. We sleep, and wake up, and wait for the phone to ring for some news. Every time we receive a knock on the door-we rush to see if the messenger brings good tidings. Today? Tomorrow? A week from now?
No, it’s only the local deaf man. He remembers us from last time, offers to take out our trash for some money and food.
We sit and watch the sunset. What does it know of waiting and anticipation and disappointment-a million times in one day?