Passing through Two States  ~ عبور مدينتين 

أمينة عتيق

عبور مدينتين. قصة من أدب الرحلات عن رحلتي إلى فلسطين في نيسان (إبريل) ٢٠١٨ مع المنظمة الطوعية كادفا CADFA (منظمة صداقة كامدن-أبو دِيس). ذهبت مع مجموعة من الطلبة الانكليز والفرنسيين في رحلة تبادل مع الطلبة وللقاء الطلبة الفلسطينيين. كتبت عن المرحلتين: الأولى عن تجربتي حين وصلت إلى المطار في إسرائيل ورحلتنا من اسرائيل إلى فلسطين بالحافلة الصغيرة طوال الليل. والثانية عن الخليل، وفيها شهدنا الاحتلال الذي يعيشه الفلسطينييون منذ أمدٍ بعيد. شهدتُ العيش بين الجدران وهي عيشة لا تليق بأيّ آدميّ ولا تُطاق.

Amina Atiq

I had hoped a two-state peace process would work but after a three-hour interrogation in Ben Gurion airport, it seemed to me that peace was broken the moment I witnessed my white friends pass the immigration office without question.

 Journeys seem to begin on the road but I intended to fall asleep, hoping I would wake up in Palestine greeted with Arabic grounded coffee and brown silk-skinned dates, picked especially for the guests. But the sirens of an ambulance woke me up. I opened my eyes to find my head resting on the window with my headphones falling out of my ears. Cars clustered to one side to give way, a flashing light rushed through the traffic. I noticed the Star of David fluttering in the wind out of the car windows. It was like a night parade of waving flags but with no drums. From a distance, the ambulance swerved into a junction and disappeared. 

    The moon ascended into its curved rounded beauty.  It had reached midnight and the long roads began to stretch far out into the space of nothing but darkness. A stroke of cold breeze entered through the driver’s window. I looked out to find, what looked like a human figure on top of a mountain, wrapped in cloths of the colour reds, green and white. We had arrived at the West Bank with no checkpoint or an immigration officer to question the year my parents were married, or ask me to repeat my full name several times. We arrived at Jericho, located near the Jordan River of the West Bank. In the peaceful heat of the village, little huts stood on the edge of the carved mountains facing the narrow and dusky roads. The road thinned, small independent shops scattered, and one had a twitching light bulb hanging from the ceiling. Different coloured bags were scattered on the floor, rubbish piled on top of each other waiting for the wind to blow them away. A group of men’s voices echoed from a distance, as we reached closer; they were sat around a white plastic table with a teapot placed in the middle. It was their social gathering hours after a long hard day at work. They exhaled their shisha pipes into the midst of the sky, as they looked into our mini cab, curious to where we foreigners had come from. The driver beeped the horn twice, for greetings and farewells. A broken car left on an empty street, stands on its side with two wheels remaining, smashed windows and a hanged number plate. Stray malnourished cats crouched outside the front door waiting to be fed by a wise old man.  A child I noticed, cycling very close to the pavement with a milk cart tied to the back of his bike. I looked at him; his small soft eyes wished we had stopped. I turned my head around to find him turn into the dark alleyway. He vanished. I wish we had stopped to speak to him. 

The Old City of Hebron. 

We visited the old city of Hebron, once a place full of people, now a ghost city struggling to survive. The quietness of the old city echoed the lost voices of generations that were once here. We walked past a line of desolate market stalls waiting to return home. The further we walked into the centre of the old city, the brittle keyholes whistled and murmured against the wind. I shivered.  For the first time I felt an immense of silence of pain. I could not help but imagine the bustle of the market stalls when the old city was thriving but the locals told us that they will return soon. 

     Ahmed was the last of three shop owners after fifty years of business; he tells us, ‘The worst thing in life is occupation, not only occupying our lands but our lives’.   His market stall sits in front of the Ibrahimi mosque but in between is the famous checkpoint, which always seems to be watching at everyone and everything that moves. 

    We waited at the checkpoint, at the barred and metal-netted narrow paths to the mosque; we had to present our visas. Before they ask for your name, they ask what colour you carry, a green or blue ID.   I panicked as I rummaged in my bag but I could not find my blue and white visa. I remembered the story of the young pregnant woman, who could not find her ID at a checkpoint, and was questioned in Hebrew, a language unknown to her; they shot her and her brother. With my Hijab, they would not know that I was a British citizen. I reached closer to the soldiers. My heart was racing; I gave them my passport where my visa had fallen to the ground, and sighed in relief. 

    A little boy with leather brown slippers, smaller than his feet and his small toes sticking out, ran to me waving his prayer beads in my face, telling me he is the cheapest in the city. From the corner of my eye, an Israeli officer watched from the glass window of the checkpoint behind me, as another watched from above in the tower block with his gun facing downwards.  As I passed money to the boy, the solider raced towards me. The boy ran off skipping, he stuck his tongue out and waved his prayer beads in the air, giggling. They walked past me and followed him. The neighbours gathered, shouting. The boy hid behind a tall elderly man, peeking from the corner of his eye. I never got the chance to ask what his name was.

It was the final days of our stay in the West Bank. I had believed there was still hope for a peace process, but I had experienced life behind walls.  Walls can come down but to live in fear is no life for anybody. 

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