The 100-mile journey of leaving Gaza took 12 hours, six checkpoints, and interrogations so humiliating that a year later, I am still reliving the trauma.
By Anas Almassri
On July 31, 2018 the Palestinian Civil Affairs office called me at 10:08 a.m., while I was sitting at my desk in Gaza on what had begun as an ordinary workday morning. The caller informed me that the Israeli authorities had issued my permit to leave Gaza in order to study abroad, and that I had to depart immediately. “The [deportation] shuttle is waiting for you,” said the caller. “You must make a decision now: you either leave right now or you lose the permit.”
I was stunned. Just a few days earlier, the very same Israeli authorities had rejected my application for an exit visa; since then I had received no updates. Now, if I wanted to leave, I would have to walk away from my desk and head straight to Erez Crossing. I would not have time to say goodbye to my family, to hug my parents or my siblings. I would not even have time to pack my clothes, or withdraw cash from the bank to cover my travel expenses.
Worse still was the uncertainty. The Palestinian authorities were telling me that the Israelis had approved my visa even as the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem, which had mediated on my behalf with the Israeli authorities, said that my request for an exit permit had been rejected.
I had three or four minutes to decide, under incredible pressure, while thinking about all the things I had to leave behind: my clothes, my laptop with all my files on it, the friends from whom I had no time to take my leave, the words of love and support I desperately needed from family and loved ones. I did not even have time to inform my employer.
I decided to go. Leaving my laptop open on my desk with my assignment unfinished, I went to my rented room in Gaza City, just a 30-minute drive from my family home. I took my passport and Jordanian non-objection confirmation, and went to the Erez Crossing.
A representative from the U.S. Consulate called again while I was traveling to Erez, to say that my permit had not been issued. Then, there was another call, again from Palestinian Civil Affairs, to say that my permit...Read More