On the 15th of February, four days after my birthday, I received some great news. I was admitted to Southern Illinois University graduate school for their master's program in political science, with a fantastic financial package. I was beyond happy, but I chose not to share the news on Facebook like my former classmates from Franklin and Marshall College, who were admitted to different graduate schools, out of fear.
I feared that the day would come when I wouldn't be able to leave the Gaza Strip, because Israel and Egypt would simply deny me my right to freedom of movement, my right to leave my country.
For those who are not aware, the Gaza Strip is entering its 11th year under crippling siege from both sides of the Strip, Israel, and Egypt.
On the Egyptian side, the border hasn't been open for almost 200 days under the pretext of security and Egypt's military operations in Sinai against ISIS.
On the Israeli side, no explanation is given.
Here is a brief explanation on what a student from Gaza needs to do in order to arrive to his college after finishing the "easy" step of acquiring a scholarship.
- Apply for the U.S. visa through the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem.
- Apply for an Israeli permit in order to go to Jerusalem.
- Once you get your visa, you apply for a Jordanian visa/permit, so that a student could use their airport to travel. (We don't have an airport, thanks to Israel for bombing it.)
- You apply again for an Israeli permit so you can go to Amman, Jordan and leave to the U.S. from there.
Now this year was different. Israel denied me a permit to go to Jerusalem for my visa interview. No explanation was given. It was decided that my only option is to apply for my visa at the U.S. Embassy in Amman and to do my visa interview there.
So this time we applied for the Israeli permit to go directly to Amman and skipping Jerusalem. Again, permit denied. No explanation was given.
Here is a fun fact. Let's assume that you requested an Israeli permit and you wanted to leave on the 18th of the month. Israel would not let you know that you are allowed to leave until the day before, the 17th in my example. What this does essentially is leave you anxious.
Additionally, it deprives you of the ability to make plans and adds financial constraints on you. It is a known fact that if you want to book a flight for cheap, you've got to do it ahead of time; but not if you're from Gaza, because we won't know if we would be "granted" a permit until a day before the requested date. Then you are left with no choice but to purchased your tickets once you arrive to Amman, i.e. a couple of days before your desired date of departure. By then, ticket prices are high.
Back to my situation. I have to be on campus on the 14th of August. I do not have my U.S. visa yet, because Israel didn't allow me to go for my visa interview. Now if I magically travel to Amman, I need to stay there for at least a week, in order to give the U.S. Embassy in time to process my application and print the visa on my passport. And a week is being hopeful, as it could take up to two months. So, as each day passes, my opportunity to further my education, my scholarship to acquire a master's degree is slipping away from between my fingers.
The past couple of weeks have been nothing short of mental torture. Every day I am more anxious, more frustrated, more angry, because this is something completely out of my hands, something I have no control over whatsoever. I feel completely powerless, and I don't know what to do.
If you've reached this part and I didn't bore you with my rambling, then thank you for reading this through. You need to know that this is only a glimpse of what it means to be under the military occupation of the "most moral army in the world."