Every people in the world lives in a place. For Palestinians, the place lives in them.” DR
A Palestine story

Journey From A Palestinian Refugee Camp to America
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November 20, 2010
Last Thought, from Nahr el Bared
Back from Nahr el Bared and already contemplating about my visit. I was able to get a visa at Beirut airport to enter Lebanon with almost no question asked. However to enter the camp, the visa on my passport was not enough and I had to have a special permit.

The fact that I was born in the camp, have two parents (one disabled), a brother and many relatives living was not enough for the army check point to allow me entry into the camp.  But  that is half of the story. For this military permit allows one to the perimeter of the camp or the new camp, but not the camp proper. The original camp was obliterated in 2007.

All the camps’ residents who took refuge and live with family members, in small rentals, or makeshift car garages cannot enter the camp without the permit either. Their local identification card is not enough to allow them back to their homes.

I was happy to see construction activities, albeit with a turtle speed to rebuild the destroyed homes. I thought of the chilling high unemployment level and if camp residents will be able to find a job and take part in the rebuilding efforts of their homes.  But to find out it was not that easy. Anyone who wishes to work with the construction companies must first secure another military permit, for the original camp is fenced with barbed wires and entry is controlled but for three gates with military guards. No one is allowed in the camp proper without a second special permit.  

I talked to several of the unemployed who were still waiting to receive this special permit before they can join the construction companies. I asked how long it takes to get this permit, no one knows: the sole decision to issue or not, is the military’s only.  I was told, it could be a month or several months. Can’t you check on the status, I inquired? Only if you didn’t want to ever receive the permit, was the answer.

In the morning of my last day in the camp and while I was standing by the sea, an old acquaintance riding a cheap motorbike stopped by to say hi, we talked for about one hour. He told me of his destroyed fishing boat and how he was not able to work as a fisherman anymore because he was not able to receive a work permit. He pointed to the military guarding the entrance of the small fishing port: the military checks your identification and if you cannot show a work permit, you cannot leave the port. He told me of waiting for the work permit for about a year before giving up. He had a total career change to help pay for his children at local school and college.

And it was amazing how this friend kept telling me how he was fortunate for not suffering as much as the others did.  Yet, he told me of the time when walking the streets all night because the garage he was using was locked up and he ended up sleeping the morning hours at a local mosque.

Today, he like all the dispossessed, walks tall hoping for a better day tomorrow. I just wonder if tomorrow will ever come!