Personal Account — Visit to Gaza
16 Mar 2010 The Long Introduction to Gaza
On Tuesday 2 March 2010 and after several attempts over the past four months the call came from the office of the General Administrator at the Latin Patriarchate Fr. Humam Khzouz that the “coordination” effort to enter Gaza finally paid off and I have clearance to enter Gaza. On Thursday morning I set out at 6:30 a.m. and was at the Erez checkpoint at 7:45 a.m. Anxious to spend as much time as possible inside Gaza, I was the first to arrive. I presented my ID and identified myself only to be told that the office that deals with Israeli ID’s inside the terminal opens at 8:30 a.m. and there is no one there yet to confirm that I have a permit to enter. At exactly 8:30 a.m. I returned to the security booth as the diplomatic cars were starting to arrive, as well as a heavy guarded delegation from the European Union. Obviously, these VIP’s had precedence over this over-eager Palestinian. Once all the VIP’s were processed, I was told that it does not appear that there is a clearance for me to enter. The young security agent asked for my mobile phone number and said that some official from inside the terminal will call me to explain the situation.
One full hour later, the lady called me up to her security booth, handed me my ID back along with the “permit” and started to explain to me the conditions of the permit, and in the middle of all this, the mobile phone rings and the long awaited call from inside the terminal came. I thought the officer will greet me and maybe apologize for this long delay, but instead, he started telling me that there was no coordination for me and I could not enter Gaza that day. I did not argue too much, now that I had the permit in hand. I politely ended the call and thought that given the circumstances I was not about to disclose the conversation to the officer inside the bullet proof booth. I thanked her for the permit and proceeded through the heavily guarded metal gate to the terminal. I was not sure what to expect next, may be the officer who spoke to me would show up and accuse me of disobeying his instructions? I acted as normally as I could and once inside the huge empty terminal was processed in about 5 minutes and was pointed in the direction of a very clear shiny sign that had an arrow pointing to a pathway clearly marked “GAZA”.
Walking the Lonely Path towards Gaza
Once I cleared the Israeli side, I started a long walk (approximately 1 kilometer) through a covered pathway with steel metal rods on both sides at the end of which I arrived at the Palestinian Authority checkpoint where I was cleared quickly for entry to Gaza.
My host, the Medical Director of Near East Council of Churches (NECC) Health Program, Dr. Salim Abadlah, was happy to see me come through, having been there waiting for me for two hours. We got into the car and drove for a few hundred meters where we were stopped again at the Hamas checkpoint. There was no question at this point as to who is in charge of Gaza. A businesslike questioning occurred as to who I was, my job affiliation, the purpose of my visit to Gaza and the address of my destination in Gaza. All the information was entered in their database and a personal photo taken, and finally I was cleared and on my way into Gaza....