I arrived at the Tel Aviv Ben Gurion airport in Israel at 00.15 on the 23rd of May after what I know was the longest and most stressful travel experience I’ve ever had. It all started in New York as I was told I can not board my flight to Moscow as my flight to Tel Aviv would depart from an airport different from the one I would land at and I did not have a Russian visa to be able to travel between the two. After much stress and some tears, I paid an extra fee and got a ticket for another flight from Moscow to Tel Aviv. My first flight of at least 10 hours went by in sleeping and reading books. The Russian carrier Transaereo did not bother to entertain us which was rather unfortunate as I had another 14 hours to spend at the Moscow airport and yet nothing once I read the two books I had on the plane.
I felt very anxious all through my flight to Tel Aviv. As I got of the plane I joined the longest cue I’ve seen at an airport and waited. Everyone showed their documents, answered a few questions and went through. Once it was my turn, I passed my passport. I was asked about my father’s and my grandfather’s names and was immediately addressed to a nearby room where I had to go to be questioned. In fact, apart from the anxiety of not knowing whether you’ll be let in the country or not, the process was not as scary and dramatic as I had it described by others or imagined it. The Israeli staff was quite understanding and friendly. I still had to wait two hours to get my passport, though.
I managed to call my friend Gal who had told me he was going to pick me up from the airport and was readily going to wait for him to come in the next couple of hours. Instead, just five minutes later he showed up and surprised me saying he had been waiting for hours for me to arrive and had even called the emigration office to ask whether they had me! 🙂
In the morning Gal and his mom left me at the Tel Aviv’s bus station and went to a wedding. As my two miserable suitcases were all broken, I was struggling to make it to the other side of the street but a dark-haired girl helped me carry one. As we talked I was very self-conscious about saying I was half-Palestinian and that I was going to the West Bank as I had no idea if she was an Arab or an Israeli or if it mattered at all. Her name was Nour.
As I got off at Jerusalem I went ahead to get the last bus to Hebron for the day. A cute Boston University rugby guy called Tony helped me with my suitcase and I waited for the Israeli bus to Al Khalil (this is the Arabic name of Hebron). I wanted to go to the bathroom but I couldn’t leave my suitcases as Nour had told me I should not leave my luggage unattended even for a minute unless I want to get myself into a lot of trouble. In the meantime, another Arab girl asked me to look after her bags which I agreed to do. As she took a while, I grew anxious… She came back soon, but I couldn’t help but acknowledge how all of that was making me feel even after being in the country for just a couple of hours! Since both Israeli and Arabs helped me and welcomed me I felt It was important to yet again remind myself to not project anything to people and simply see them as individuals and not in their stereotypical roles of “oppressors”, “victims”, “terrorists”…
|My colleague Anas from the Hebron Youth Development Resource Center where I’ll be working in the next two months came to pick me up and drove me to the organization’s premises nearby the Northern entrance of the city. I learned from him that some relatives of mine on my father’s side had called him to tell him to “take care of me”. It was clear to me my mom wouldn’t do it as she knows very well how I detest any form of patronizing. I got somewhat mad that someone is giving their permission to someone else to patronize ME, which I will not allow, especially if it exhibits itself in ways that are limiting to my free actions and unrespectful of my free judgement.
Soon after I had arrived, Anas and his friend Muotaz, the other intern- Marin and I went to Betlehem for dinner.
I was suddenly overcome by so much joy and excitement, we frequently stopped the car to just gaze and take photos! I haven’t laughed so badly in months: I was telling Anas he’s giving me stomachache out of laughter!
I had forgotten to awe at the new things I see. To be grateful. To be trully excited even if it is annoying for the people around me (Anas and Moutaz were making fun of me for being so excitable. Someone else recently told me he has traveled so much now, there is nothing to be excited about anymore. I think I felt this for a while, too). I think you need a certain sense of comfort and ease, and peace of mind to be able to exercise your excitement.
Excitement, however, is for me one of the most crucial qualities of being alive.