Come 2017 - For We Shall Overcome
I’ve been thinking what I can share with you in this new year. The past several weeks have been unusually difficult for me. Like most couples, my husband and I work very hard, pouring countless hours into our professions and into our family. When we go on vacation, we often go with our young children. This time, my husband I decided to take a trip alone, a short getaway to Paris.
As most of you know, as a Palestinian with a Palestinian ID and passport, I occasionally have access to Jerusalem. Other times, when I really could use access to Jerusalem, I don’t have a permit and I simply can’t go. In order to visit France, we need visas, but since I don’t have access to the French embassy or consulate in Israel, a friend with a permit volunteered to take our paperwork for us.
That day, we received a phone call telling us our application was not accepted in Jerusalem, but we could give our finger prints in Ramallah and try again. It was a Sunday, and our only free day from work, so we skipped church to visit Ramallah (God forgive us). We spent four hours at Aramix, a fingerprint service that delivers paperwork to any embassy. As we finished there, it came time to pay. It added up to be quite expensive, costing us over $100 just for the delivery service.
The frustration began to set in. If I had a Jerusalem permit, I would not have had to pay the extra $100 because I could have gone to the Jerusalem consulate directly. Yet, I don’t have a permit and I live in the wrong country for convenient service. Furthermore, I had to pay for the additional fuel to and from Ramallah. This is our life though, I thought, littered with small and large injustices all around us. As we left, they told us there is no guarantee we would receive the visas, so all this money could be for nought.
On the way home, my husband lamented that as Palestinians, no matter where we go, we are treated as “less than,” even in our own country. In spite of my own frustration, I told him, “I will never give up.”
We continued our drive home. It generally takes an hour and fifteen minutes and we have to cross two checkpoints (even though we are driving within the West Bank, the small area we are supposedly allowed to live freely). We passed through the first checkpoint without a problem, but a few meters ahead we came across a surprise flying checkpoint, temporarily erected by soldiers. People close by said it had been up for a few hours. The only way to continue was to drive off the road, literally through a series of fields. Gratefully, I have a good car and we could traverse this terrain without a problem while many of the smaller cars could not follow and remained in line for who knows how long, at the mercy of temperamental soldiers.
With the unexpected traffic and detours, the nearly one hour drive took us many hours, and it was nearly midnight when we arrived home. We were exhausted. “Do you still have hope for this land?” my husband asked me as we got ready for bed. “Do you truly have hope as we get ready to embark on a new year?” I answered sincerely, “I do.” I told him that this land can and will bring hope to people.
Two weeks later we finally heard back from the French embassy. It was good news! We received our visas! Our hard work and the extra financial burden paid off. We could finally book our tickets.
What would be the best way to stretch our money? To find the most cost effective way to travel so we could spend our money in Paris. We wanted to fly through the Ben Gurion airport in Israel. Three years ago I had the chance to fly through there and it’s so much cheaper and more convenient than traveling through Jordan, as most Palestinians are forced to do. The traveling expenses are double if we fly through Jordan, and compared to Israelis, Palestinians earn much less. My husband and I applied for permits to fly through Israel along with another couple. We waited a few weeks and finally received a call that we received permission to fly through Israel! We were elated!
Our feelings of joy did not last long. We finally heard all of the news. The couple and my husband received permission to fly through Ben Gurion; I did not. “Why me?” I wondered, distraught. “What did I do wrong to deserve this?” I had all my papers with me. I receive permits to visit Israel (or Occupied Palestine, choose your name for it). I have many friends in Israel, and some friends with connections in the Israeli government intervened on my behalf. They all came back with the same answer, “You aren’t blacklisted, but you are not welcome to fly through Ben Gurion airport, and don’t bother ever trying to apply again, because you won’t get permission. Fly through Jordan.”
My heart is heavy, my friends. Why is this happening to me? Is this how my year ends and a new one begins? My husband is frustrated with the whole system. The system tells us we are not equal; we have no rights. Israel has power and steps on those of us with hope, who believe in building connections for a more peaceful future. If you try and raise your head and assert your dignity, don’t think it will be worthwhile. I am so disappointed.
I ponder my feelings and all that has happened. “Why should I stay here?” I wonder. In spite of this, there’s still this indefatigable place in my heart that tells me that one day this will pass and we will overcome, and not only do I want to be here to see it, I want to be part of it. Yes, I am frustrated with the way the Israeli government treats me. And yes, I will stay in Palestine because I have the right to be here. I have the right to have equal rights, even if Israel does not recognize that. I have the right to have dignity in this land, and I will fight with my resolve and my words and my hope. I believe if we join our voices and share our stories, the world will know, and one day this will change.
So to you 2017, I say “Come!” Come with your bitterness, harshness and cruelty. But know that I will be here to face you, because my faith is stronger than your darkness, and my Lord is stronger than the Israeli occupation. To you, 2017, I proclaim, that one day, “We Shall Overcome.”
Below I include the words to this song that rings in my ears as I welcome 2017 with disappointment, hurt, and resolve.
[YOUTUBE LINK inserted https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RJUkOLGLgwg]