To read the first part in this series, about Selah’s journey into Jordan, read here.
Finally, we enter the Israeli border which is graced with a green lawn surrounded by dusty hills (Amazing, what one can do with 80% of the aquifer that sits under the West Bank). We collect our suitcases and get in line to collect a new luggage tag. After receiving our tags, we enter an outdoor line where we wait to show our passports so that we can enter the building. Then, we join a new line to go through security and check our luggage. This room is air conditioned!
“Hamdillah!” exclaims a chubby man in pajama-looking pants, a white t-shirt tucked into them. His shirt is circled with large sweat rings. He has removed his white religious hat and his bald head is beaded with sweat. His long, very curly black beard comes down to his chest, which is covered with very curly black hair. He has no mustache.
A mother struggles with her blind son, who is flailing and wailing. A group of sisters try to help their harried mother. I greet the blind boy when my part of the line doubles up next to him, and he grabs my hand with fervent strength. We pass each other. I exchange a smile with the mother. A young girl leads an older blind man by the hand; he is wearing the traditional Arab robes. Two cute girls in matching cotton jumpers and side ponytails pass us. Our game is to smile and giggle each time our lines bend and allow us to face each other.
Finally, we come to security. We remove our belts and shoes, walk through the metal detector and surrender our luggage. We emerge on the other side and buy a bottle of cold water. We wait in a new line to enter another room that will lead us through the Israeli border. In the big room, we join one of the wide lines waiting to face Israeli officials who sit behind large glass windows.
The mother with the flailing blind boy enters the room, and Rima has had enough. She walks over to a standing Israeli guard. “Are you in charge here?” she asks in English. He responds affirmatively. “Then why aren’t you doing anything to help this mother?” She gestures at the blind boy. “Can’t you see this woman needs help? You should take her to the front of the line!”
“Well, no one told me to do that,” he replied. “I’m telling you!” said Rima. The man obediently walks with Rima over to the mother. There is fear in her eyes as they approach. Is she in trouble? She is hesitant to give out information. She keeps her gaze down. A few moments later, she and her brood of children are escorted to the front of the line, her face bewildered.
When it is finally my turn, there is a question about my one-year volunteer visa, through which I am allowed to stay in “Judea and Samaria,” the official Israeli term for Palestine. I knew that by going to Jordan, I would lose my year visa, which is why I saved this trip to the end. I am now entering Israel all over again, and in need of a new tourist visa.
The lady makes some phone calls, punching information into her computer. Our line is stalled. “We need to look into this,” she says. “Go sit in the chairs over there.” I am thankful that one of my American friends, whose visa went through easily, decides to stay with me. After 10 minutes we are approached by a soldier. We follow him to a small office where we are told they need to examine my papers.
How much longer would it be? Would they let us through? To be continued…
Check back soon to find out what happens next in their journey home.
Selah spent one year living and volunteering in the West Bank, where the greatest danger she experienced amongst the Palestinians was growing a muffin top from being overfed.