Traveling to Gaza is a frustrating process. I'm trying to get things right before I leave in two weeks, but tracking down the official rules and regulations is not easy matter. If I had a dollar for every minute I've spent searching for them. I'd have enough money to pay for the trip.
Last week I turned to the US Government for help.
My Pennsylvania Congressman's office agreed to contact the Egyptian Embassy with hopes of obtaining all the information I need regarding documents and paperwork for crossing from Egypt into Gaza and back. I've also asked them to inquire about granting me prior approval to cross into Gaza and stay for six weeks and return to Egypt. I requested they ask the Congressman about writing a letter for me ....well...I don't think ...ah..that's a...possibility....
I said I wasn't asking for a "letter of support"! But couldn't he just write that he knows I'm aware there's an advisory against traveling to Gaza; that I am willing to sign away my rights to counsel; that he knows me, I'm sincere, intelligent, wonderful, creative, etc and if he could he would write a letter of support. (But AIPAC won't let him.)
Congressman Rush Holt of New Jersey (whose district neighbors mine) has traveled to Gaza and been vocal about the need to lift the blockade and siege. I called his Washington office asking for a letter of support for my trip....We're sorry, protocol dictates members of Congress provide services only to the people they represent, their constituents...
Believing protocol can be fudged when warranted, I spoke about Gaza, last year's visit, this year's opportunity...Congressman Holt's position, how I admire his courage to speak out... he speaks for me! He certainly does "represent me" in Congress on the issue of Gaza. His aid then said he would take my request to the Congressman.
People ask if I have fears about being in Gaza. No, I honestly don't! However, there are two fears related to the trip.What if my papers aren't in order and I am not allowed to cross into Gaza? I'm doing everything in my power to see that doesn't happen. The other fear is lack of funds. I can get to Gaza and return. I can stay in a no star hotel and cut back on my food budget but I am almost running on empty. Things important to me...taking art supplies to the children's centers...are becoming impossible to include.
Phil Weiss has been supportive of me and my passion for Gaza since the first day we were there in May 2009. He urged me to appeal to readers for ideas of gaining support/endorsement for my trip. Don't hesitate to get in touch with me at email@example.com
Susan Johnson will be volunteering at Afaq Jadeeda Association (New Horizons) in the N Refugee Camp and the Qattan Center for the Child in Gaza City. She last wrote about her trip plans here.