On May 16, Maha, the Palestinian woman on the left in the above photograph, tweeted this photograph of meeting her friend Walaa from Gaza in Jerusalem. A friend in Gaza sent it along to me with this note:
Walaa made it to Jerusalem for the first time in her life. Here is a picture with her Palestinian friend Maha. They only met for five minutes, full of tears. Injustice!
Walaa is Walaa Al Ghussein. She wrote about the cruel restrictions on travel from Gaza for us last month, and I wrote to her to ask her about the meeting above. At first she politely turned me down, explaining it was “indescribable”. But I persisted, and she provided the following explanation.
It’s not easy for a Gaza resident to get a permit to enter the occupied lands of Palestine, or even to leave Gaza through Erez checkpoint. And it’s impossible for anyone from there to enter Gaza.
Our permanent dream is to meet, one day, in our own land. And we never gave up this dream. But I almost did when I was there, in Jerusalem, not having time to meet one of my friends because of my permit and some restrictions. But my friend refused to give up and managed to follow me to the Gas station while I was on my way back to Gaza.
My friend, Maha came from Umm Al-Fahem to Jerusalem, just to see me for 5 minutes in the Gas station, knowing that I would have to go back to Gaza before 7 pm, because I have a limited permit.
What happened in those five minutes? I met Maha for the first time in my life, in my first visit to Jerusalem, to share with a her a long, deep hug and lots of tears without being able to utter a word, because our tears in such a moment say it all.
Maha was desperate. She started to fight with the driver, begging him to take us to the Old City for awhile, and go back to Gaza in time. But he refused to take such a responsibility, and we started to cry and hug each other again and again ceaselessly, not believing that we actually met, and that our dream is not entirely impossible.
But what power on earth could prevent two people from the same country to meet in their own land? It’s gross what occupation and apartheid can do to us.
What was more painful is stepping up in the car and leaving the Gas station watching Maha standing there in her place crying alone, like it was a dream.
Those five minutes were, heart wrenching, a first meeting and a goodbye at the same time, not sure if she’ll ever see me again. Or if she’ll ever meet her other friends in Gaza on this land.
Yes, I was in Jerusalem, but I didn’t have the time to actually see Jerusalem, and I met Maha, but I didn’t meet my other friends there, not even for five minutes.
But I gave Maha a promise that I’ll be back again soon, and one day, me and our other friends in Gaza will be able to hang out in Jerusalem and the rest of Palestine, without having to get a permit.
I expected this visit to be restricted and short, but I couldn’t imagine how heart wrenching it would be to meet any of my friends from there, and to leave the place.. I didn’t want to go home, because for me, this is my home, and it will always be.
It took me a lot to write, delete, and re-write this again, but whatever I write or say, will not be enough to describe my meeting with Maha, and my whole trip to Jerusalem. Because it’s simply indescribable. I couldn’t say anything during my whole visit, I remained silent with the tears refusing to leave my eyes, and it’s not easy to describe it with words now, I still cry whenever I try to talk about it.
I can not fathom living like this. The lifestyle being imposed on Palestinians is a human tragedy of massive proportions.
(Hat tip Yousef M. Aljamal)