This blog post is the sixth in a series of posts from =mc’s Senior Associate Consultant Laurence Brady, who is currently undertaking an exciting piece of fundraising work in the Middle East and North Africa. During his time on the project, Laurence will be writing regular blog posts in a series called ‘The MENA Blogs’. This post, Gaza.
Take the dual carriageway out of East Jerusalem heading for Tel Aviv. Drive at speed on a busy, smooth road. After half an hour, maybe more, take the slip road and follow the signs for Ludrun. At a new intersection less than 10 minutes later, turn left in the direction of Ashqelon. Ignore the turn-offs to Hebron and Ashdod and head directly for Erez. The journey takes an hour and a quarter.
When you get out of the taxi, take your bags to the first hut and present your passport only, no other documentation. You’ll have to wait for five minutes while the two officials check it and give you another document. Pass through the metal gate and walk towards the long rectangular building in front of you. At certain times, like Thursday evenings, it will be full of people but, when you go through, it will be silent, like a deserted airport terminal building: no soldiers, no announcements, no coffee stalls, no people with trolleys.
The Gaza Community Mental Health Project is a group Laurence will be meeting with
You will be called forward to passport control and you will have to step inside a metal box where your documents will be checked. At this point you show your visa, your passport and your identity card which has your FN, your Foreign National number, on the back.
Once out of the metal box, walk towards the entrance to a corridor. The corridor has high grey panels so you cannot see anything on either side. At the end of the corridor turn right. You may need to press a buzzer to get through the first of two eight feet high metal turnstiles that are only a few steps apart.
“Once out of the metal box, walk towards the entrance to a corridor. The corridor has high grey panels so you cannot see anything on either side.”
After the second turnstile, you are outside. Strange though this may sound, you then get on a golf cart with your luggage. You will be driven on this track that is in the open but completely enclosed by steel fencing. On your left you will see fields, camels and sheep; on your right, the high concrete blocks, fencing, barbed wire and cameras that of the building of your departure.
Your cart journey is just less than a mile. When you get to the end of it, go to the Fatah hut to show your passport there. You won’t be asked for anything else. You are still in a restricted area, but now you are expected to get into a taxi that will take you to the final checkpoint. It should cost you three shekels, but the driver will ask you for ten. The journey is only a couple of minutes.
Another driver will meet you there with an entry permit. You must now show this and your documents to the officer from Hamas. Another Hamas guard will take you and your luggage to another hut. He will open each bag and go through everything until he is satisfied. Just wait patiently and say nothing.
You are now free to go with your driver. Welcome to Gaza.