I started the year in Palestine. It felt so good to be there. I was in a place so far removed and isolated from most of my other life outside of the occupation. I feel privileged to be able to visit, to go when I can and when I want. A privilege my mother passed on to me and my brothers. I am able to visit because my mother made sure to take me to Tulkarem and register me in her permit. The Lam Shamel system of exit and entry permits into the Occupied Territories called the West Bank. A system of papers, and cards and stamps from Israel and Jordan that allows some of us Palestinians the right to visit and leave through the King Hussein Bridge (aka Allenby). We are allowed this privilege because we are Palestinian Jordanians. That part of Palestine was under Jordanian Mandate from 1948-1967, a time when the Palestinians of those territories were considered Jordanian citizens, and still are depending on where you were in 1988, but that is another story for another time.
Throughout the years the crossing had gotten harder and easier. My earliest memories were of strip searches and over turned bags with Israeli soliders running every article of clothing through their gloved hands. Our shoes in a box filled with other peoples shoes and you had to rummage through them to find yours; Oh what a horribly stinky pile of shoes it was, especially in the summer. And this was after you and your family were crammed in to a cubicle behind a screen, striped down to our underwear for the Israeli soldier girl (they were and still are so young) to come pat us down. These pat downs then progressed to being wanded down, still in our underwear. Now we walk through that security frame that we know so well and only when it beeps do we get the pat down. But we have no choice in all of this. Our bodies, our identities, our belongings all subject to the sadistic security practices of an occupying force afraid for its security. And it is these memories of humiliation, the excessively long and detailed searches to the skin, the heat of the Jordan Valley in the middle of the day, the stench, the lines, these are the memories that stay with you as you grow up despite the constant changing and even easing of the procedures. It is those memories that has served Israel so well today as a whole generation of us has grown up and taken the decision, the only decision, the only choice we have and decided to stay out.
My brothers and cousins are some of those that have made that decision. They are all grown up and no longer need to be dragged by their mothers and fathers to visit the family in Tulkarem. Especially with the passing of my grandparents, the ties that bind us get weaker and weaker. The older generation feel less of a need to visit their home town and only go when there is paperwork to be signed. Even then, one of my uncles who lives in Palestine may bring it up with him and finish the paperwork in Amman. So why would my brothers and cousins go? Why would they cross the Jordan when all they can remember is the unreasonably early start, the unbearable heat, the stench of pressed sweaty bodies packed in to a small area, and the humiliation and disrespect of the Israelis. With that memory and that trauma the crossing becomes such a stumbling block for the Palestinians and such a success for the Israelis.
The Israelis have succeeded in making us the second generation of permit holding Palestinians from the Occupied Palestinian Territories (West Bankers) in diaspora “choose” to disenfranchise ourselves even further by making the decision not to cross the Jordan, not to renew permits, and for some even give up the right to visit.
It angers me so much to think that they are willfully giving up their papers or ignoring them and jeopardizing their rights and their children’s rights to Palestine. That they very easily disregard the sacrifice, the struggle, the humiliation and oppression our parents went through to make sure we would have our rightful place in Palestine. That they have given up.
Every time I visit Palestine I ask my uncles “who of my cousins has come to visit?” Their responses are discouraging and disheartening. The only ones that visit are those that come for paperwork and they are few and far between. It feels to me that my family members in Tulkarem are forgotten they are names with faces frozen in time 10-15 years ago. It feels that with the passing of time they are being dropped from their daily consciousness, just like they are dropping Palestine and the reality of Palestine, making it a faded memory.
I don’t think my cousins read my blog, but in case they do or someone in a similar situation is reading it, I urge you, I implore you to visit, and to continue to do so, go learn about Palestine. Go to other towns and villages. See what is happening, talk about what is happening, connect, learn, understand and don’t just be a number counted out in statistics. Don’t let them win this way.