Rana Shubair

To Travel or Not?

I’m sitting here watching people go away. They go with no farewell these days. You learn about it on their social media statuses. When they’re wherever they are, they post pics of beautiful places and tourist attractions. For a shallow mind, you’d think they were in heaven. For me, I’ve become numb. There’s no heaven on earth, but there’s hell. The hell exists in living under occupation, blockade, and the constant threat of war and dispossession. It’s sleeping no knowing what you will wake up to. It’s waking up unaware how the day could end.

It’s the uncertainty.

Uncertainty has become the hallmark of our times since 2020 as is experienced by millions across the world due to Covid. Here, as Covid revisits, occupation tightens its grip to strangle the people of Palestine, with special added bonuses of repression for Gazans.    

I long to travel and see the world, but I want this right as a permanent one where I’m granted freedom of movement. I don’t’ want to have to sign up weeks ahead to make it to the traveler’s list, which has to be approved by Egypt. I want the luxury of being able to make a quick decision to just go to the border and travel. In its current state, the border officers are like the jailers holding the key to this big prison.    

While serving time in this big prison, we’re subjected to the most inhumane brutal circumstances. Two million people are squeezed into a tiny strip of land no more than 360 square kilometers. My hometown consists of densely populated neighborhoods with high-rise buildings, a symbol of suffocation more than it is of civilization. The lack of green areas and free space between houses and buildings limits my vision.

With the devastated economic conditions and lack of options, it’s become tradition for house owners to tear down their old houses and construct an apartment building in its place.  One building next to another next to another. Two buildings sometimes share the same wall. I try to get away from it all by going out to open areas to relieve my eyes and my leaden soul.    

These ideas float in my head every day. My friends tell me to go away for a few weeks. I keep imagining myself setting foot in the outside world. Will I be happy? Or will I hate the occupation more for depriving my people of living like ordinary humans? Of locking us up in a big cage and pounding it with air raids whenever it feels like it?

My hope comes from my belief in the legitimacy of our Palestinian cause. My hope comes from watching fearless men and women defy the occupier and demand their right to live in dignity. My people are honorable and have been taught that to live in freedom is the only way to live.

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