Serena Becker, Delegation Coordinator
The first Rachel Corrie Foundation Delegation has successfully entered the Gaza Strip, Sept 16, around 6pm (local time). It was a long, complicated ordeal consisting of Egyptian officials at the Rafah Crossing intentionally misdirecting us and forcing us to navigating red tape as they attempted to deny us entry.
Thank you to all of those who called and emailed the Egyptian Embassy on our behalf.
After all day yesterday (Sept 15) and nearly all day today (Sept 16) we have been working to get in to Gaza. In total it took us around 36 hours to get in. All this while the crossing is actually open. This crossing is “normally” only open once month for a few day. With the difficulty we
had crossing into Gaza, from our position of privilege as westerners and while the crossing was actually opening it is unimaginable the difficulties Palestinians face getting in or out of Gaza.
While at the crossing we saw hundreds and easily thousands of Palestinians crossing and attempting to cross into Gaza. These are people who have been stuck in Egypt trying to get home for weeks and months. Bus loads of people were getting through and it was heartening to know that they would soon be reunited with their families. However, we must remember the fact that Israel’s siege on Gaza has created an environment where one would be happy to see their family again, period. No matter how long it may take.
Imagine if you needed to go to a hospital in the next state over but upon return you were not able to cross that border simply because officials said it is closed and you found that there was nothing you could do about it but wait. That is Gaza.
Nobody should be forced to wait at a desolate checkpoint attempting to go home for months.
The closure of the entire Gaza Strip from Rafah Crossing, controlled by Egypt but in coordination with Israel to all of the crossing point between Israel and Gaza are human rights violations and violations of international law. And as much pressure as possible must be put on Israel to end the siege in Gaza and the occupation of Palestine. This is one of the reasons why we have brought a delegation here.
Standing in the hot sun for hours at Rafah Crossing it was astounding to see the amount of things that people were bringing home with them. Luggage crammed underneath buses to the point of them over-flowing out the door, trailers attached to the back of the buses piled as high as possible.
People were bringing in refrigerators, stacks of chairs, washing machines, you name it. All things Israel restricts and does not allow to enter Gaza. All items that are taken for granted anywhere they are easily obtainable. All items that we consider essential to everyday life. Why then, in the hands of a Palestinian mother, is a refrigerator deemed dangerous by Israel?
We also saw a glimpse of the medical and heath emergencies this siege has created. A young boy in a wheel chair trying to re-enter, and frail, old man in a wheelchair assisted by family leaving Gaza for treatment in Egypt. Another man in a wheel chair attempting to return home to Gaza after being treated in Egypt. The people we saw in the short time we were there make me think about the hundreds who have died in Gaza because they could not get proper medical treatment due to the siege. We saw lines of ambulances ready to go into Gaza, and we assumed they would be picking up patients at the crossing and bring them to Egypt for treatment. After all, what good would an ambulance do without medical supplies and fuel anyway?
So, in spite of the fact that we tried for two day to enter, our unpleasant and extremely frustrating experience getting through this border was nothing compare to what Palestinians must endure to cross this border.
I cannot find the words to describe has over joyed I am to be able to see my friends in Gaza again. After 3 1/2 years much has changed here, yet driving north from Rafah toward Gaza City I remember vividly my time here in 2005. Perhaps because this is an unforgettable place. Unforgettable for the suffering and oppression the people here endure but also unforgettable because of the amazing spirit and persistence of the people to carry on with their lives and try to live, to the best of their abilities, in this dire situation.
I feel honored to be welcomed here and look forward to spending a week with my friends.
We will be very busy while we are here but the delegation will be sending out updates as often as possible.
Thank you all again for the amazing support.