”Flowers Are Not Allowed”

At the Erez Crossing
By Dr. EYAD al-SERRAJ

How much did I want to travel to see you and all the dear friends, to see the world and to breathe some fresh air, to reassure my senses that there are some normal things and normal people out there.

How much painful it was to realize time and time again that I am not and we, people of Gaza, are not allowed to feel normal or think normal.

Our right to our land, to freedom and to justice were systematically raped. Now they are after our sanity. The aim is to destroy what has remained — our identity. It is our identity that is so threatening: our humanity, our attachment to the family and the holly Jerusalem, to falafel and the music of Fairuz and women weaving traditional dresses.

I was three months waiting for a medical permit or a travel permit. All attempts failed until Uri Hadar intervened and won for me a one-day permit to see my doctor in Tel Aviv and travel immediately to Amman to join you and the Cyprus group.

The journey started at six in the morning. so at eight I was waiting at the Palestinian side of Beit Hanoon, ”Erez”. No computers are allowed, no electronics, no flash discs, no cameras, no radios. They speak through loudspeakers and look down at you through cameras.

Open your case, they shout in stupid Arabic. When the woman in front of me in the queue – we were five patients – questioned an order, she was ordered to take all the items in her suitcase out. In front of the camera she had to show all of her underwear, one by one. I was fuming, ”Are we in a strip show?” I was punished by having to wait for three hours and to be checked by the x-ray machine three times. They knew it was harmful to my medical condition because I told them so. They are horrible.

I am sure the woman was thinking how to get revenge. I hope she will not turn to suicide bombing because that is exactly what they wanted – they want us to lose our humanity and sanity, by turning us into death machines.

The first human I saw was a Rambo with dark glasses and a grin carrying a huge machine gun across his massive body. He must feel the power of his muscles and his gun and the weakness of me with my frail body and obedience to his orders. But I could not escape the question, ” Who is frightened?” because I was not. I was angry but not afraid.

When I crossed to the Israeli side of the border, I saw the BBC correspondents and few journalists waiting to cross into Gaza. They were not allowed for the eighth day running. On the same day twenty European diplomats were barred from coming into Gaza. On the same day Israel decided to cut the fuel supply to Gaza’s sole generator and to close the borders to UN food. On the same day the Israeli army kills four Palestinians in Gaza, while stressing their adherence to the truce.

On the way back after a long round-trip journey I decided to buy some little plants with flowers to bring home. The soldier shouted at me, ”Flowers are not allowed”.

Dr. Eyad al-Serraj works with the Gaza Community Mental Health Project.

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