Thursday, July 15, 2010

I'm Back

After way too long, I'm finally back.

I mean back to blogging. The past month was crazy busy at work and I sat with my laptop in the office, at home after work hours, on my days off and just wrote and wrote and wrote. This is what it's like working in fundraising, I suppose--sometimes you have several deadlines at once, and sometimes your partners don't do their part, so sometimes you sit with about three times the work you're supposed to have. Hence the lack of updates.

I'm also back in Palestine. Tarek got a Schengen visa, so we packed our bags and went on a surprise visit to Sweden. Almost gave Mom a heart attack when we walked in through the door.

On Friday, we came back. Barely, but we made it. Let me tell you:

Tarek is Palestinian, which means he is not allowed to travel through the airport in Tel Aviv, Israel. And if he's not allowed, I'm not going.  If he wants to go anywhere, he has to cross the border into Jordan and fly from there. So this is where I went with him.

When we came back, we landed at Amman airport at two in the morning. Arrived at the border at around 3.30 am. Waited until around six or seven before we could go inside and go through the Jordanian border control. They check Palestinian passports in one place, and people with other passports in another.

Tarek went with the Palestinian bus to the Israeli border control at around 7.30, and I was left alone, standing in the early morning sun, waiting for the tourist bus. People around me were talking about last night, when the Israelis turned back several busloads of people from the border and gave them no other choice than wait until this morning to go back and try again.

The first bus finally came at 8.30 and around 30 minutes later it took us to the Israeli border control. The ride is maybe 5-10 minutes plus the time it takes to stop at the first Israeli passport control, have everybody get off, show their passports to the Israeli soldiers, wait outside while a soldier searches the bus, and get back on the bus. So we arrived at the Israeli border at maybe 9.15.

I got my bags, went and stood in line in the sun, handed over my bags to the border control, had my passport checked again and a sticker attached to it with a number 2 on it (that's the next to lowest security number you can get, 6 is apparently the highest, which I know because I got a 6 at Tel Aviv airport once). Then I waited in line again, had my passport checked again, was given a little piece of paper with a number 9 on it, went and stood in the line in front of passport control window 9, and waited.

(All these details? It's for people who are thinking about traveling through the Allenby Bridge into Palestine).

Anyway, it was soon my turn and the 18-year-old girl behind the window started asking me all sorts of questions.

Israeli girl: "What is your purpose of visiting Israel?"

Unlike the first time I went to Palestine (through Tel Aviv), I decided to tell the absolute truth this time. Mostly because I've been here for 8 months and they know I'm not exactly visiting the Holocaust Museum every day.

Me: "I work in Ramallah."

Girl, looking through my passport: "You know you don't have a work visa for Israel."

Me. "I know, but I work in Ramallah." That is, not in Israel.

Girl, either being very incompetent or trying to get me nervous: "You stayed almost a year after your visa expired, why did you do that?"

Me: "I didn't, I had a one-year, single-entry visa right here." I showed her. (And for the record, I'm allowed to stay for 3 months without a visa, which means I only stayed 5 additional months, so even if I didn't have a visa for that period, it certainly wasn't "almost a year" extra). "I lost the visa when I left last week, but it is until 31 of December so I certainly didn't overstay my visa."

Girl: "But this isn't a visa for staying in Israel."

Me: "This is what the Israeli authorities gave me." Thinking: if it's not a visa for staying, then what kind of visa is it?

Anyway, you get the level of our conversation. Unable to look me in the eye, she said to my passport: "You shouldn't work in Ramallah," under her breath. Meaning I'm wasting my life. "You should go back to Sweden."

After a series of questions concerning my work, my living situation, and a phone call in Hebrew triggered by the mention of my Palestinian boyfriend, she handed me a sheet of paper and told me to go and sit down and fill it out and wait to be questioned further.

I went and sat down. And I'll tell you all about what happened after in my next blog post.

To be continued...

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Bo said...

Mein Gott, what drama! And you only got a 2? You're losing your touch, Mata Hari!

Ruby said...

Who is Mata Hari? Oh, I googled it. Are you calling me a courtesan?!

Anyway, I think the 2 was a mistake. That was when they thought I was just an innocent tourist, before they checked my file. WARNING WARNING, terrorist suspect. She works with USAID-funded development projects for journalists and kids. OH NO!

Bo said...

Ha ha! Mata Hari was a FAMOUS spy from WW1!