– Post by Aydin –
30.10.2018 – Day 34
Atmosphere of departure. Some of the YALLAH! Family already left. Renad is already back in Germany and Majid left with his father to Jordan, to spend some days in their house there near the Dead Sea. Last days in Palestine. Everything is more calm and chill, but has a bittersweet touch to it. I am happy that I will see my loved ones soon, but also sad that the time just flew by, especially the last days. The month was packed with so much traveling, meeting new people / organizations, and work that we definitely needed more time to cover everything.
Most of the participants prepare to go back Germany, pack their stuff, clean, wash and buy some presents and gifts. So today shopping was on the to-do-list, but also a surprise birthday party for Sarah M. and Nizar. Therefore, we had to distract especially Sarah M. with an extremely long shopping tour, so everybody else could prepare the party at our apartments.
One or hour two hours in I left the “distraction”-group and decided to help the other people at the apartment with the cake and other preparations. I think Sarah R. should do special post dedicated only to this occasion. It already was funny in the beginning when I still was around, because she said things like: “Today I want to keep things more slow and chill, because I get stressed out here in Ramallah when everything is so fast.” Something like that at least. Sarah R. is not really the slow kind of person, which already was suspicious in a way. Sarah M.’s facial expression also was hilarious when she said that. I thought that they would not be able to keep her busy for another couple of hours.
However, I was mistaken. In the end, it all worked out and we were able to surprise them. Mohammad, Rawand and Jenny Z. also prepared some tasty lasagne and of course, we had some “Vanilla” red velvet and chocolate cakes, because Sarah M. was talking about it since we came to Palestine and was excited about “Vanilla” for a full month.
31.10.2018 – Day 35
Today we made the last preparations before leaving Palestine. Cleaning, putting the furniture to the former state, but also last minute shopping again. Throughout the day, we met altogether at our apartments and decided to have dinner at the Vintage Café.
Some people could not manage to join, but we still managed to say goodbye in some way or another. At the Vintage Café we ate and of course did some photos together, later went back to the apartments, checked whether we forgot something at the apartment, returned the keys to the landlord and finally entered our transfer bus to Ben Gurion airport. Sadly, we could not take the “party-bus”, because it was a bit smaller than this one, but most of us were not in a party mood anyway, because we knew what was coming.
01.11.2018 – Day 36
The way back to Germany or to any other country, if you enter Israel from Palestine is always a pain in the butt.
First, if you want to get to the airport in Tel Aviv, you have to cross several checkpoints. It starts with Qalandiya checkpoint. Later on, you come across another check before entering the airport area by security personnel. Here we had to wait until everybody’s IDs and stay permits were checked. Some of us had to open their bags and show the security personnel their stuff. Of course, they also asked us where we stayed, where we are from etc., and then we already got our first sticker of the day. I will explain the stickers later.
Arriving at the airport, before giving up luggage and checking in, there is another interrogation with security personnel. Here they asked us again what we were doing, where we stayed and several other questions like before, but more in-depth. However, the interrogation and questioning was over as soon as we said that we are traveling from the West Bank, then the security officer asked some other questions, but did not really care about the answers, because she already heard what she needed to give us the yellow sticker barcode starting with the highest number you can get: a six. The Israeli security has a system to judge how much of a threat the people who are leaving Israel are. So actually, it is a profiling process. Nobody really knows what the criteria of giving the highest threat is, but most certainly, it is racial profiling. I already had some “fun” times at the airport, especially when entering Israel.
I was glad that we travelled as a big group, because the other people who are traveling with you will know if something is going on. However, because we mentioned that we were one group, we all got the barcode starting with a SIX! YEAY! Therefore, we knew that the upcoming procedure would be fun. Most of us knew and experienced this procedure already, because some already travelled a few times to Palestine and back to Germany.
I will copy the meaning of the different numbers from another traveller, who left Israel and explains the whole process pretty well and also documented the whole procedure with pictures, except for the interrogation part in the private room of course; we did not want to take pictures, so we would not get into more trouble. It was night time and we travelled six hours earlier, so we would all make it through the security checks and checkpoints and don’t miss our flights.
“Very basically the system goes from one through to six. The first two at least are reserved for Israelis themselves, diplomats, the type of people who aren’t considered a threat at all by Israeli security. Three to four are reserved for foreigners who aren’t considered a risk (and yes, racial profiling does play a part in this whether you like it or not), five is for foreigners who raise a couple of flags and in their eyes deserve a few more questions and perhaps a search, and six is considered a high security risk and will be controlled and searched thoroughly.” (https://bemusedbackpacker.com/2017/01/16/what-to-expect-at-israels-airport-security)
After we got the stickers, we proceeded to give up our luggage and check in. Then the real fun began. At first, we were a bit confused, because the “special VIP area” where people with a certain “threat” level like us are checked, seemed to be closed. Therefore, we went on to the extremely crowded “normal” area where everybody else is checked, which are common in most of the airports. As soon as we showed the security personnel our passports, they directly moved us to the “special” area. We were the first ones today, who get a special check, so that was the reason why it looked closed. Some of us nearly were disappointed that we will not experience the “special” treatment.
Everything is checked. The bags, everything that is on you, even chocolate packages (!!) that are closed. My poor M&Ms. At first you have to get everything out of your bags, pockets, etc. The security guy, who checked my stuff already misplaced my passport and accused me for losing it. After telling him three times that I just passed the detector and that he wanted to check something with my passport and that he definitely had it, he finally gave in and searched for it. He dropped it off somewhere and found it later on. So I decided to have a look on how he checks my stuff instead of sitting and waiting. Therefore, I can see what he is doing. However, some of the stuff is checked somewhere else, so you cannot have an eye on everything, especially when you have to go to the body scanner while your stuff is being checked for drugs, explosives and whatever could be a threat. The security swabs your items repeatedly and tests them for explosives etc.
At the full body scanner, I had to take off my shoes so the security check also there for whatever they are searching. Then I had to enter the full body scanner. After my notebook was scanned layer by layer and my last chocolate pack was opened and checked for explosives by the Explosives trace detector, I finally was allowed to go, while other people from my group were further interrogated and asked several questions by the Israeli security and other people who were wearing suits instead of standard security clothing.
Finally, I got my exit permit and could leave to Germany. The first time in a long, stressful and intense time, I felt some kind of relief.
After everybody was allowed to leave, we headed to the gate and with a transit in Istanbul, finally arrived in Germany. After picking up our luggage, we checked our luggage for the famous notification that our baggage was inspected. And nearly everyone got one! YEAY again! But of course I got another notification that my ceramic plates got broken. Later on, I noticed that a huge box of chocolate (the security really seems to like chocolate) was missing and that my washbag and everything that was inside was gone too. In addition, my suitcase was damaged.
What a lovely day of traveling!
However, I am extremely grateful for the opportunity and everything we experienced in the last weeks with the YALLAH! family. And that we were able to have these experiences because of YALLAH! and everybody that is involved in this project. I really hope that projects like this will get way more attention and support in the future, because it is extremely important to understand what is going on (in countries like Palestine) and live these situations, because words, images or even videos can’t describe the reality as good as experiencing first-hand. Sometimes it was too much to handle and dangerous (as you can read in the other blogposts), but I think that we have to go through and live these life- and view changing experiences to learn and broaden our horizons. Also through these experiences we can at least try to truly and deeply understand what is going on in the world and should not take everything for granted or as it is.