'You are a Gaza Citizen' He Shouted
"What does that even mean?" I was genuinely confused
"Go back to Gaza" he carried on
"But I can't" I bloody can't, I damn can't, I truly and honestly can't.
Israel denied me entry to Palestine yesterday (21 May 2016) mainly because I am from Gaza. That's it, no other reason what so ever. No further explanation, no details, they didn't give a shit even though I was travelling on my British passport. They took me to a room and showed me all my details on a screen, an Israeli soldier came carrying a big gun. I said I wanted to speak to my British Embassy, but they just laughed and said in a thick Arabic accent "Enta Falasteeni khabebi" (You are Palestinian darling).
The rest of my company went through, I was going to participate in the 9th annual Palestinian Festival of Literature (Palfest) reading from my novel Vanished. Only one member was sent back with me because they didn't have time to finish the security checks. He went back today and got through.
Now picture this, after hours of waiting and questioning, you are finally told you can't cross to your home. They take you to a room and shout at you, then walk you through to the other side to get your suitcase, your fellow travellers are all waiting. They watch you as you approach thinking that you made it through then they see the big security guy behind you. They see you pick up your bag and turn around until you are finally thrown out.
I say goodbye to Ahdaf Soueif, she hugs me tightly and I break down. Her warm hug was just what I needed. My tears continued to flow as I hugged Sarah, my new beautiful kind American friend who stayed with me until the end, giving me riddles and playing games to relieve my stress. I can't tell you how that oasis of kindness felt. "Thank you" was all I could say, I felt the words coming up from my heart, physically scratching my throat. It was all I could do as things around me started to spin. I hope to be able to repay this kindness.
As the security guard started ushering me towards the door, I suddenly felt worse, it felt real, I was being ejected because of where I come from but worse of all I felt bad because my tormentor once again saw my tears. I felt bad for letting Palfest down, for letting the group down and delaying them. They were so kind, so generous and loving and I made it difficult.
My fellow returnee looked after me well, took me to Amman town centre and we had brilliant Foul and Falafel dishes. Then the rest of the night was in my hotel room.
My mother in Gaza was angry with me this morning "go back to London" she shouted over the phone "Forget all about it, forget about Gaza too and us".
But how could I? I am sorry....I am so sorry