In view of the blackout, suffocation, shortage of everything, and unlivable sanitation conditions, and the fact that two million children, women and men live imprisoned, it is hardly imaginable that people long to reach the Gaza Strip.
Yet those whose health is on the line and are recovering from surgery do long to get back home to their own family and especially to their own beds.
But that which is so natural for anyone is not at all obvious or simple when the it comes to Gazans. Regardless of the cardiac condition of a patient fresh out of surgery, or wounds not yet healed, or a woman barely able to walk on her own feet who has to be carried by strangers, in spite of all of them and the likes of them, and in spite of the physical and mental torment, the return trip to Gaza is long, exhausting and involves endless convolutions in the mazes of bureaucracy.
New things I learned about the new ‘system’:
Even though a week ago the DCO officer told me that the transport to Gaza leaves every day at 13:00, I saw it leaving at 16:45.
“No one sees us, even if we die no one will see us” said one woman. And a man, Maher was his name, told me he had come to the checkpoint at 10 a.m. and has been waiting ever since.
Israel and the Palestinian Authority that cooperates (perhaps in this case, the other way around) only allow patients to travel back to the Gaza Strip in this officially organized transport and with escort.
In the transit van there is room for ten plus the escort who sits by the driver. The escort receives the passengers’ IDs and transit permits from the soldiers, and calls roll, name after name, checking that the photo in the ID is that of the person who answers.
Every passenger pays the driver 70 shekels. I have no idea how much money goes to the transport company, owned by a Negev Bedouin family, how and from whom they got this job, nor do I have any idea what the two coordinating bodies, Israeli and Palestinian, consider their responsibility for whoever arrives after the transport has left or when the transit van is already full – the transport only leaves when that is the case.
I assume that on that day there were not enough passengers. Perhaps that is why departure was delayed until 16:45, perhaps this was the reason that Maher (and not only he) had to wait close to 7 hours. And in order to complete the sum of 700 shekels, perhaps, the driver suggested I join the trip. I agreed on condition that he gets me into Gaza itself. “That is impossible,” he said. “Only to Erez Crossing.” I passed.