[Photos at bottom of post.]
By Dahlia and Dima Abi Saab (Al-Awda-NY)
After four days of attempting to leave
Saturday the 11th, a group of approximately 50 of us decided to make our way toward Al- A'areesh to wait for the people following who were in
As we arrived at the Suez Canal,
The authorities were not allowing us to do much by the bridge. We weren't allowed out of the buses, if we had to use the restroom, we needed an escort to walk us there, wait for us, and then walk us back. After an hour of sitting in our buses, we all slowly began coming out and sitting on the side of the street. People began conversing, and then we decided to make the best out of the situation. A group of us held hands and began doing the debka in the middle of the street, in an attempt to show the cops that our spirits would not be broken. After a little debka, someone brought out a soccer ball and a large group began playing, until the cops confiscated the ball.
The paper work was submitted and we were all just hanging around waiting for permission to go. Here and there, there were arguments because the authorities would come back and tell us to leave and we would all refuse. At one point, the security official of the bridge came and told everyone to get on the bus, that we were allowed to cross the bridge. After everyone began jumping and screaming because of excitement, we all heard loud bangs on our trucks from one of the members of VP-USA telling us to get out. One member heard the security official tell the bus driver to pretend we were heading toward Al-A'areesh but to really take us back to
We all brought our flags out and held our American passports in our hands and began a protest at 6 AM on the side of the
After 12 long, sweltering, hours the convoy as a whole decided to go back to
During our campout we called the U.S. Embassy in
After this disgusting display by the authorities and their blatant refusal to let us move forward, and their demand for us to "bring George Galloway and come back" (as we're assuming they did not believe we were members of his convoy we, as a group, decided the best decision would be to in fact head back, get the affidavits demanded done and come back as a larger group. We headed back into
"I, name of representative, vice Consular officer, certify that on this day 12 July 2009, the individual named below appeared before me and, being duly sworn, made the statements set below:
"I have read and understood the travel warning issues by U.S. Department of State relating to travel to the Gaza Strip. I assume the risk for myself and I understand the Embassy does not recommend my travel to the
"I also understand that the Embassy cannot provide me with consular services in the Gaza Strip."
This "necessary" document took us three days to acquire for the convoy in its entirety and cost at the U.S. Embassy $30 -- 30 USD to sign off that OUR embassy will under no circumstances assist us while we are in the
For three days after our stand off with the Egyptian Authorities at the bridge, we woke up at 6 AM and told that we were going to leave for Al-A'areesh. And for three consecutive days, we were waiting in the lobby of our hotel, after we had checked out and all, and the authorities would not let us leave our hotel lobby for several hours - and we were forced to check in again and wait for the following day to attempt to leave. But finally we had all the necessary paper work, and we finally were on our way to
Photos: 1. Doing debka while waiting; 2. still waiting; 3. Charles Barron; 4 and 5: Blocking the bus; 6: Black nationalist, US and Palestinian flags on the bus.