A clear and warm November evening; sun sets in a violence of color to the west over the sea and a full luminescent moon on the rise over Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip. As if on cue, the buzz of the pilot-less drones overhead begins as their nightly circling ritual gets underway. The taxi driver’s hands grip the wheel of the car more intently as we speed along the winding road to Erez past the village huddled in the shadows a few hundred meters away to our right. At the Palestinian side, the driver gets out of the taxi, my passport in hand, and takes it into the shack of an office where a handful of scruffy, uniformed security figures are sitting. Darkness is creeping in from the East.
There is a problem, the driver explains to me in broken English. They won’t let you through. On the other side of Erez where the gatekeepers sit in their park-rangers’ office with the neon lights and the coffee-machine, my number isn’t blinking approval on the computer. Or something like that. A furious volley of phone calls on my behalf commences between the driver, friends in
Darkness covers half the sky and the drones sound hungry. The driver shouts into the phone to my friend, Khamsa Daqa’iq! Khamsa Daqa’iq! (Five minutes! Five minutes!) He’ll wait only 5 more minutes, he says, before returning me to
Drones can’t tell a taxi from a car full of ‘militants.’ In the darkness on the road they won’t know who we are-or at least it will make matters easier when the explanations for two dead civilians come in the next day, one of them an ‘international’. It was dark, you see, and they were ‘suspicious.’ The suitcase might have been full of explosives. Therefore no investigation will be necessary. Therefore it was OK. Therefore it was our fault for being out. Therefore you should not go to
The trip back is a roller coaster ride with the wrong kind of thrills. Friends meet us on the curbside outside their home and we all tip the driver better than he’ll ever get again in his lifetime. He is breathing again; an old man with white hair, looking apologetically into my eyes.
In the tall apartment building teeming with prisoner families of
Sorry. Forgot to give your number to Security at Erez. You can leave in the morning.
What a blessing: Six-thirty in the morning I am ready again, suitcases in tow, just in time for the explosion down the street; just in time to view the melted mess of a once-automobile and four once-human beings smoldering in the middle of Gaza City, boys picking at the wreckage and ambulance sirens closing in. State-of-the-art incineration tactics: a gleaming helicopter gunship straight off the defense industry’s spankingly efficient assembly line and loaded with glimmering precision-guided missiles. Tourist attractions are never-ending. If they’d only let more people in who would need
This time on the
Please push open the gate.
I’m past the first jail doors and clacking on toward the second set. Here, a steel-barred revolving door interrupts the even, steel-barred gates. The Voice sounds again.
Go through the turnstile.
Monotone, passionless Voice.
Put your bags on the belt.
Don’t even think about disobeying.
Step into the glass x-ray machine with your arms outstretched and your legs apart.
The glass doors spin closed, high-tech sound like the elevators in the Mall of America. I am x-rayed along with my bags as they inch through the baggage tunnel.
Please step back.
Please step in again.
Please step forward.
Please take your bags.
Please walk forward.
What a polite Voice. It says “please”.
Don’t touch the glass.
The Voice sees everything I’m doing. It sees through my clothing and my leather back-pack.
You dropped something, the Voice tells me. Hint of humanoid at the other end. I pick it up.
The next set of steel bars appears. The final tunnel chamber is divided into three corrals: one for the sub-humans from
This monstrosity is not for your security. This neo-fascist, Stalinist, gulag
The prison compound of
Why? Because this blockade on human traffic into Gaza, this travesty of an experiment in collective human torture, is sanctioned, supported, condoned and blessed by the United States, the European Union, the United Nations, the Arab League, the G-8, the corporate masters, the “international community”; by heads of states, presidents, prime ministers, chancellors, kings; by foreign ministers and their trusty delegations; by politicians and diplomats, executives and organizations, academies and institutes, think tanks and centers for the study ofs; by departments of foreign affairs, interior, education and finance; by media lords, newspapers, radios, television stations, journalists, analysts, commentators and publics who don’t dare open their mouths, write out their shock, register their objections, express their disgust, squeak out their “no’s” lest they suggest that Israel’s apparatus of inhumanity is an abomination on the face of the earth.
Servility to power, obsequiousness, righteous barbarism, elitist racism, cowardice, complicity and denial fuel the engine of this dreadful machine, and those with the power to stop it at once refuse to utter a sound.
So outside at the end of the tunnel the soldiers greet me. Standard procedure. All in day’s work. Normalcy. Take your bags over there. Yet another series of x-ray machines and tables. Every item from toothpaste tubes and contact lens cases to dirty socks and tee-shirts, from blue jeans and turtlenecks to embroidered shawls and purses, is dumped onto the table and sifted through with meticulous care as the backpack and suitcase, the handbag and plastic sacks are sent through x-ray machines again. Three and a half hours after my journey began, I am dismissed to the Erez rangers’ terminal where my passport is examined for the 5th time. I have two hours to get to the
The beauty of the
Where? She asks.
A blank stare.
EREZ. The entrance of
She doesn’t know what I’m talking about.
Jennifer Loewenstein is a Visiting Research Fellow at