A trip from Gaza to Eilat and back – by Omar Ghraieb
|Wednesday, July 7,2010 16:03|
|By Omar Ghraieb|
Tthrough an arduous journey in the desert of northern Sinai, hoping to cross the Egyptian-Israeli border and reach the city of "Eilat", which is the main destination of his dangerous unguaranteed trip.
Five months ago, M.K. made his final decision to start this journey hoping to find a better job that will salvage his children from the anguish of poverty and bitter life conditions and earn a reasonable amount of money that will be sufficient for a period of time and perhaps guarantee a decent living for a while or maybe start a small project that will help him continue through a normal life, indifferent to what this journey might hold: things like horror, imprisonment, or a fatal bullet aimed by the Egyptian border guards directly at him or his head, or the Israeli forces that regularly comb the border to prevent the smuggling of strangers (foreigners) to the occupied city of "Um Al Rishrash".
Pumping up his courage with determination and persistence, he started his journey by going to the city of Rafah in the southern region of Gaza, he was scheduled to meet and negotiate with the owners of the tunnels to agree on the deal of smuggling him, not in his wildest dreams had he thought he would fall as a victim to their greed.
Some of the tunnels' owners asked him to pay up to 2000 dollars to smuggle him to the Egyptian territories.
Hours and hours passed while M.K. waited for the tunnels' owners –as they agreed on meeting him in a certain spot to smuggle him and guide him- instead he faced an impediment along the way of his trip, which ended before it started, and waited for a long period standing in the central area of the tunnels to start his way to "Eilat", but without any luck or success, he fell as an easy prey for tunnels' traffickers who thought that M.K. was a fugitive running from a crime or is wanted for justice.
Without any previous warning, the power went out from the whole area of the tunnels, and without hesitation or thinking about it twice, M.K. slipped into one of the tunnels, shrouded in darkness, and fell to the ground in nothing but complete darkness and then used the frail light of his cell phone which guided him to the road.
After an hour at least of walking which seemed like a whole year, he reached the tunnel's eye on the Egyptian side, which was closed with a piece of wood covered with a pile of dirt and bushes to mislead the Egyptian security, he found an ax which was discarded in the soles of the tunnel and decided to use it and open the exit to let himself out.
M.K. found himself in the corridor of a house belonging to one of the Bedouin families in the Egyptian city of Rafah. Calmly and carefully, he managed to leave the house and walked in a sandy, dusty street surrounded by trees on both sides until he arrived at a populated area, then made a call to his Bedouin friend, who would provide his arrival to the city of "Eilat", which is located between the city of Aqaba to the east and the Egyptian town of Taba to the west, and began an exciting adventure that lasted for two weeks, spending during this journey two days in the mountains that separate the Egyptian borders from "Israel", and anxiously waited for approximately ten days in a cave in the belly of the Mountains until the activity of the Egyptian border guards became less frequent, who combed the area from time to time.
This previously mentioned area (mountains) was out of reach or control to the Egyptian authorities or Israeli authorities because of the high mountains that surround it all over, and every effort to stop smuggling operations by the Sudanese, and foreign females failed, both sides resorted to using excessive force and firing at the intruders, killing some of them sometimes, injuring and imprisoning others.
Israelis studying the possibility of establishing a barrier to protect its borders along the lines of the Egyptian-Israeli border just like the concrete wall in the West Bank which separates the Palestinian territories there and acts like a huge barrier that Israel uses to protect their settlements. Israel beefed up the border guards and raised the alert status on the Egyptian-Israeli border stretching from the Gaza Strip until Eilat for fear of any foreigners to smuggle themselves into Israel.
After two weeks of patience, waiting and living on small portions of water and bread, both Egyptian and Israeli border guards eased their intensive combing operations and M.K. managed to infiltrate into the city of "Eilat", then he contacted a Palestinian friend living behind the 'Green Line' to help him access one of the Arab cities to perhaps find a job there.
M.K. toured the streets of Eilat in disbelief that he could break through the border despite the extensive combing operations, but the joy did not last long, as he arrived to the place where he and his friend agreed upon meeting, the Israeli police was there too and detained him for a period of four months to interrogate him on the circumstances and ways that he used to infiltrate "Eilat".
M.K. is torn, he didn't want to believe that his so-called friend reported him yet he asks himself always the same question: "How did the Israeli police know my story and know where I would be?".
He decided to put his mind in ease and just forget about the whole thing including his friend, convinced that it was a bad idea from the start.
After the end of his interrogation period, M.K. returned to the Gaza Strip.
M.K. told me in a loud, relieved voice: "Fortunately, I was able to cross the Israeli-Egyptian borders where all who got arrested crossing the border illegally stay on trial for a long time and get high imprisonment sentences, when I stayed for four months only and I got back home to my family safe and sound."
It is noteworthy that many Eritreans, Sudanese and other people from different nationalities have been killed before being able to infiltrate into the city of "Eilat" or Egypt during the last year.
M.K. told me that he learned how to be patient and content, he didn't deny that he is still facing hardships in life but he is glad and grateful to be alive and with his family.
* Omar Ghraieb is a Palestinian reporter/journalist/writer/peace seeker living in Gaza and trying to shed a light on what happens there.