Well, we made it safe and arguably sound, after another exhaustive battle through the nightmare that is Rafah Crossing, or as Gazans like to call it "Rafah Resort".
The good news is we made it through after spending just one night in Arish, and just before the crossing was closed again. Of course this was not without jostling through hundreds of tired, heat-exhausted, and dusty passengers. The Khamaseeni winds were fierce and dry and merciless.
Because the crossing had been closed for a week prior to Thursday, there was a backlog of passengers, and the flow was excruciatingly slow (think of a VERY thing bottleneck). I literally had to jam my way through the arms of Egyptian security guards ala "try and stop me", Yousuf in tow, and together with another woman and her children, steamrolled our way through a crack in the opening of of one of the doors leading to the Egyptian side of the passage.
This move, in combination with a snide remark I made to the head Egyptian security guy about how they run the border on bribes almost got me arrested. I was forced to make a public apology for this accusation, which I refused to do b/c it was so blatant, and so my passport was relegated to the back of the pile until the "investigator" showed up, and then one officer "took pity" on me and let me through.
Because the crossing only operates a limited number of hours when it DOES open (on Thursay, only 5) everyone is desperate to get through-who knows when it will open again?
"We just live to wait," says my friend Fares. "We wait for the border to open again. We wait for the salaries. We wait for the law to be restored."
Upon arrival, my first impression of Gaza after a few months of absence can be summarized in one word: gloom. The garbage strewn streets were covered in a thin layer of dust of course from the winds, but it was not only that. IT was the people. They were altogether absent from the streets-on a Thursday night.
"People are scared" offered my friend, as went to grab some ice cream.
"They are scared of the situation, of the absolute lapse of order and law, of where where we are headed. And they are depressed and despondent-there's no hope anymore for anything. Not even with this unity government. The world has abandoned them. And the result is a foregone conclusion."
Forget about light at the end of the tunnel. The tunnel itself, as far as Gaza is concerned, has been destroyed.