Friday, September 16, 2011

September 15th - 16th

My last morning in Palestine.  I showered and packed very early, not sure what the day would bring.  I had breakfast on the roof and waited anxiously to hear from Kasem.  I couldn't decide what would be worse, seeing him & having to say good-bye or not seeing him at all.  At 9:15, he arrived at the hostel.  His hold up yesterday was personal, not what I had assumed.  He could only stay for a couple of hours so we spent that time huddled in the lobby, conspirators once again, discussing the Occupation and the future of Palestine.  He doesn't think the UN bid is a good idea.  He believes Israel will use the PA's actions to justify further annexation of the West Bank.  As for the upcoming closures, he has made arrangements with his colleagues that hold Israeli IDs to take over his groups when/where he is unable to travel. 
I never run out of questions and thankfully, he doesn't seem to tire of answering them.  He does have some safety concerns over what I've been posting and has asked me to leave out personal details and use only his initials when these blogs are made available to the general public.  I try to think of one single thing he's actually said or done that could be considered illegal and I can't think of any.  He hasn't broken any laws.  The truth is, Israel would punish him for simply sharing the truth with an outsider.

Our time was short today and all too soon we had to say good-bye.  I'd already warned him there would be tears and that he'd just have to suck it up.  It was the hardest part of my journey.  We made our promises, embraced and he left.  An unbearable feeling of loss came over me and I sat down and cried.  I couldn't hide in my room anymore since I'd checked out so I established my place of mourning in the lobby of Hashimi Hotel.  Employees and guests came and went but no one bothered me.  I just sat in the corner and cried, for my friend, for myself and for Palestine.
When I recovered, I asked Mohammed if I could stay in the lobby and work for a few hours as it was too early to go to the airport and I had no desire to do anything else.  He was very accommodating.  I'd been writing and editing my photos for about an hour when Kasem texted me to say he was home and that he already missed me.  This of course, made me start crying all over again.  I needed something to do so I offered to take pictures of the hotel for their website.  When I was finished, Mohammed and I talked about my visit and what I'd been doing here.  He has some friends from the US that are also in Palestine now doing something similar.  They are seeking to educate mainstream America on Islam.  He's sending me their contact information so we may work together in the future.

I left for Tel Aviv around five.  Security was brutal.  I don't understand why it's so much harder to get out of this country than it is to get in.  It makes no sense.  It was slightly less hideous than my last exit but I still spent two and half hours answering questions and having my luggage picked apart piece by piece.  I was pulled out of line three times and sent for further questioning.  I lied, of course.  They're very good at asking the same questions over and over, slightly changed, in an effort to trip you up.  They're so adept at it that even when you're not lying, they can make you doubt yourself.  They want to know every place you've been and every person you've talked to.  Your luggage is ransacked and as soon as you've repacked, someone else is there asking to go through it again.  It's exhausting and nerve-wracking.  Not only did they question me about this visit but also about 2008.  Same questions, same answers, same results:  more questions.  When they were finally done with me & I got to my gate, I just sat and stared at the wall until it was time to board.
I am home now.  I'm exhausted, physically, emotionally and spiritually.  I spent this evening catching up on all the reports from today's demonstrations in Nabi Saleh.  The military was much more aggressive today.  Several people were overcome by tear gas and one person was arrested.  It's hard to believe I was just there and now I'm thousands of miles away.  I feel slightly out of step with everyone and everything around me.  I wonder how long it will take me to adjust this time.  I still have a lot of photos to edit and blogs to redact so they can be published.  I fear I'll have a lot of speaking engagements soon.  I hope I'll be past all the crying before they start.
My new goal is to return to the West Bank within 8 months.  That seems like a very long time.  For now, I must sleep.  It may be days before I wake up.

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