Thursday, March 15

american woman

we got our passports back today. they had been gone for about two weeks while getting our year-long visas stamped in them. and by stamped i mean now taking up an entire page. so much for every trying to be sneaky about having an israeli stamp in our books.

the first day they were gone, i tried to go into jerusalem. we have to go through the checkpoint every time we want to go into jerusalem. we usually just flash our "magic blue books of power" and the guards smile and wave and we go through without any problems. well, i didn't have my magic book. i had a bright yellow piece of paper with a bunch of hebrew writing. it's a volunteer permit, which implies that i have a visa and a passport. it actually has my passport number in it. but the guard was having a bad day and it was raining, so she wouldn't roll down the window of the guard room to look at it closely and she didn't speak enough english to understand that my passport is with the israeli's, it's actually her fault i that don't have it, now may i please go? she didn't let me through. i had to get back in the van, turn around and drive past a long line of cars. rejected. i was fuming. how dare she! she wouldn't even read it! i don't know what it says, because i don't read hebrew, but that's her job! and she was so rude! then i started to think, well i'm like one of the palestinians. this is how it feels. this is how it is to be humiliated and treated like crap and turned away for no good reason. and then i started thinking yeah, i am just like them. the girl was so rude! she has no right to treat me like that! after all....i'm an american.

and then i wanted to slap myself in the face.

it wasn't that i was another human being and she had no right to treat me how she did. it wasn't that i had the papers that i needed and she just wouldn't look at them. it wasn't that i had a legitimate right to be in the country and she wouldn't take the time to listen. it was that i was an american. so how dare she inconvenience me.

i think a lot of times i don't realize how easy i have it over here. that was the only time i've ever had problems going into jerusalem. when i got back to the house of hope, i told my sob story to everyone around and rhoda quickly wrote a letter in hebrew explaining exactly where my passport was and told me to call her if i had any trouble and she'd be right there. i went on to complain to all the other palestinians about how rude the guard was, how she gave me a dirty look and wouldn't let me through.

and then i wanted to slap myself in the face again.

most of the workers here can never go to jerusalem. once or twice a year they get permits for christmas or easter, but it all depends on the mood of the people working at the permit office. and when they do get permits, they're not allowed to simply drive through the wall. they have to walk through the checkpoint, which makes you feel like you're cattle being herded. it takes forever. and the guards are usually really impolite. and i was complaining to these people about one dirty look and one delay that was quickly fixed.

i'm so spoiled, but i don't know how to fix it. i am so thankful to have an american passport. i am so thankful that i was born in america and that i was born into a family that has plenty of money to provide for my needs. i am so thankful for the freedom of movement that i have, both here and at home. but sometimes i feel really guilty for feeling thankful. is it ok to be thankful that i'm so much better off than the people around me? i guess i just have to make sure that my thankfulness does not turn into a feeling that i am owed anything that i have been thankful for.


Ramonsito said...

Tough lessons, Sarah. Thank you for sharing.

Hannah said...

Right, that's the "email you" setting to which I just sent that admonition.

Thanks for posting your experience. I can think of it, just as you say, feeling so pissed off at the guard and then remembering it's reality for everyone living in West Bank - A bit of entering into their suffering. I remember seeing a watertower in bordertown, Mexico, that had painted Solidaridad in John Deere green, if you take my meaning.

What about going through a country on a train, and only a train. Not getting off, but having passport stamps? Then I have Romania and Bulgaria and maybe Serbia (I can't remember if I went through there or not) . . .

leah said...

hey. i miss you guys. i just wanted to put that out there. i miss you, just sitting with you guys, minus the tambourine at gypsy, live music or even a dollar fifty killians. yes, i think you both are simply missed. lets get together this summer. you're gonna stay for ktina's wedding, right?

Anonymous said...

Dear Sarah:-
Your aunt Peg has been telling me about you and Jason and the good work you are doing in Bethlehem. Thanks for sharing your experience at the checkpoint. It's important for people to learn about the oppression and humiliation of Palestinians. We never hear of this in the media. I had similar experiences during my stay in Bethany last fall.

Mandy said...

Please keep posting. I miss you all so much. I have been in a funk - realizing that I am not surrounded by friends anymore. Did you hear? HK and I are travelling in China together.