I’ve spent my entire life hearing stories about Jerusalem and the beauty of my homeland from my mother and grandparents. I had always dreamed of one day being able to visit, and in the summer of 2012 it seemed that I would finally have that opportunity. In September of that year I started my travels with 30 peers on a student diplomatic trip through the Middle East. I knew that I would likely face some trouble at the Israeli borders due to my Palestinian background, however what I experienced turned out to be far more than just a little “trouble”.
Yara Karmalawy (image by mondoweiss.net)
On September 13th, 30 of my peers and myself, made our way from Amman, Jordan to the Jordan River Crossing, the international border between Israel and Jordan. We lined up single file to go through baggage check, and have our passports checked by a young soldier who couldn’t be over the age of 25. I watched as several of my peers handed their bags and passports over and were quickly moved along. There seemed to be no trouble. As I approached the soldier and handed him my own passport, he read my name and automatically asked me to step aside. I obliged, wondering and worrying why I hadn’t been let through as easily as my friends who I could now see collecting their luggage and heading back to the bus. I waited patiently as I watched my passport be handed around from soldier to soldier, each reading my name out loud then conversing among each other in Hebrew.
Eventually one of the soldiers took my passport to the back and handed it to a young lady behind a glass window. I watched her inspect the passport and vigorously type my information into the computer screen in front of her. After about 35 minutes of her “research” on me, she called me over to her window, and proceeded to question me.
“What is the purpose of your visit to Israel?”
“I am on a student diplomatic trip with the University of California school system”
“Where are your mother and father from?”
“My father is Egyptian, and my mother is Palestinian” I noticed her smirk when I said the word Palestinian.
“Where are they now?”
“In California, where they live”
“Do you have family here in Israel?”
“No, but I have family in Palestine”
“So your mother is a Palestinian and you think that you can come to Israel?”
“You are not allowed to enter here because you have a Palestinian I.D.”
“No, I do not, I am an American citizen. I wasn’t born in Palestine, nor have I ever lived there”