I felt no difference. Although I hadn’t physically been there before, every single street I passed through looked so familiar to me. I felt I belong to a place my feet had never trod and my eyes never seen. I wasn’t a mere visitor and I hated to be treated so. Khan-Yunis is my home, too. “How come I was damn passionate about travelling and exploring the outside world and I forgot I needed first to explore the world I came from?” I thought. It was too painful to realize that I hardly knew about my Gaza, let alone my Palestine.
As my eyes got used to seeing the same thing for 22 years, I wanted to see something unusual –unfamiliar; I wanted to refresh my soul and rejuvenate my spirit. I always get enlightened through my sharp observations rather than through reading tons of books but I’ve apparently run out of experiences and new teachings, for my “world” has, too, run out of new places to visit and explore. Gaza seemed a so-tiny place to vent, a so narrow spot to let things off my chest. My life sorrows seemed to be too big for my Gaza to contain. Sometimes I do have the urge to make up for my lost childhood since I was born grown-up, in a full-of-challenge place that shaped my life the instant I brought to a such cruel world. I don’t always have the choice nor do I always have an alternative. My life in Gaza shaped my dreams and restrained my ambitions. I never cease dreaming, however, seeking to reach what appears to be out of my reach.
This is why I keep rejecting the fact that Israel is besieging us; no one can impose restrictions on me, my life and my dreams. By breaking this mental siege, I succeeded in ignoring the physical one. My family and my friends can’t stop wondering how I managed to enjoy my life in Gaza, how I can trace beauty in everything I see and how simple things can bring about my pleasure and satisfaction. My mum’s warm hug would make my day; my dad’s heartfelt prayers for me could make my heart happily dance; my friend’s sincere words would make me better and the like. So simple. So satisfied.
I always enjoy being driven in the car, glancing and observing everything passing by. In Gaza, I hate the fact that in ten minutes or even less I reach my destination. I always want to prolong my presence in the car to feel the long way. This is one of the things I liked about Khan-Yunis; the 40-minute long route I had to take shuttling back and forth.
As the car got going, my eyes tracked every single inch of Khan-Yunis and I sometimes stuck my head out of the window to sharpen my sight so I would take some photos if something fascinated me. My friend, sitting next to me in the car, was mesmerized by my child-like attitude towards everything I saw, for she, seemingly, has taken this long route shuttling between Gaza and Khan-Yunis for granted. For me, I did find it enjoyable that I kept staring out of the window, spending the forty minutes daydreaming about my life-to-be. “Are you really enjoying your time in the cab”, my friend asked. “Yes,” my brief answer came so I could quickly return to my daydreaming which my friend unknowingly interrupted.
Khan-Yunis was a replica of Gaza in which I didn’t look an outsider. During my daydreaming, I wonder whether I would look an outsider, a stranger or a mere visitor when I could visit Jerusalem! Ever had I been given the chance to visit Palestine as a whole, would the streets look familiar to me or would they seem so unfamiliar to recognize?! Having spent twenty-two years in Gaza makes me wonder when I would be wandering the streets of Jerusalem, Jaffa, Haifa, Hebron, Ramallah, …etc. Why the heck have they made Jerusalem so unreachable? Why does this holy land seem to be the furthest point on earth? Why can’t my heart stop yearning for Palestine despite the fact my eyes have never explored a place other than Gaza? Or Would my death make a price worth paying for the liberation of my Palestine? Why does this dream seem unattainable? Would my visit to Khan-Yunis be the first in a long series of other visits coming along the way? When would I be received some answers so I could stop wondering since my life is full of wanders and open-ended questions?