Palestinian Hearts Broken Over The Rafah Crossing

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The blockade of Gaza is entering its tenth year. For the past five years the Rafah Border Crossing to Egypt has been closed more than it has been open. In 2015 it was closed for over 300 days.

The thousands of Gaza Palestinians who want to travel to Egypt are required to regularly update their travel request applications at the travel department in the Abu Khadra Palestinian Ministries Complex in Gaza City.

Kitam Ali, a twenty five year old Palestinian woman, updated her application at the Abu Khadra Complex, then went to buy a Palestinian style ‘kufiya’, the traditional Middle Eastern headdress, as gift for Beiram, her Tunisian fiancée.

Khitam lives in the Nusirat Refugees Camp in the center of the Gaza Strip.

Two years ago she was introduced to Beiram, a young man in Tunisia, through Facebook. The two never met face to face but they fell in love after conversations Facebook and Skype. They decided to get engaged from a distance and have their wedding ceremony once Khitam could travel to Tunis. Now considered officially married, Khitam is doing her best to join Beiram and hold the wedding party but she has been unable to leave Gaza because of the blockade and border closing that was imposed on Gaza nine years ago. In the past she would ask Beiram to prepare for the wedding after getting promises from Gaza authorities to allow her to travel. The promises have not been fulfilled but Khitam has vowed to keep trying to unite with her fiancée in Tunis.

Her mother says the long delay is a problem for Khitam as she lives in a conservative society that does not accept a long period of engagement.

Suhair Sheikh Khalil, a thirty six year old mother from Egypt, is staying temporarily in her brother’s house in a refugee camp in Gaza City. She keeps in touch with two of her children in Egypt through Skype. Because they do not understand the difficult situation for their mother in Gaza, they complain about her excuses about being away from them for so long. Suhair and a seven year old daughter Nada have been trapped in Gaza for almost one year. Suhair keeps repacking their luggage in hopes of being able to return to Egypt the next day.

After traveling from Egypt to attend her nephew’s wedding at the United Nations Gaza Beach Refugee Camp, mother and daughter became trapped when the Rafah Crossing was closed following their arrival in April, 2015.

Suhair is a Palestinian with Egyptian nationality and married to an Egyptian citizen. Two of her three children stayed with their father in Egypt when their mother and sister traveled to Gaza. Suhair’s husband divorced her when she did not return to her home in Egypt on time. She says her husband is not convinced of her dilemma in Gaza since news media outlets in Egypt do not report on the closings of the Rafah Border Crossing.

Shotlist

  1. 00:00 - 00:13 the Rafah crossing point (Palestinian Side)
  2. 00:14 - 00:24 The Rafah crossing point (Egyptian Side)
  3. 00:25 - 00:29 Palestinian flags, in the backward is an Egyptian flag
  4. 00:30 - 00:49 Departure hall in the Palestinian side
  5. 00:50 - 00:56 Abu Khadra complex of governmental departments in Gaza city
  6. 00:57 - 01:46 Passengers update their travel applications in Abu Khadra Complex
  7. 01:47 - 02:18 Khitam updates her travel application in Abu Khadra Complex
  8. 02:19 - 02:27 Khitam talks by mobile
  9. 02:28 - 03:43 Khitam buys a Kufiya for her fiancee
  10. 03:44 - 03:51 Nusirate street
  11. 03:52 - 03:55 Khitam's house from - external
  12. 03:56 - 04:59 Khitam with her family - internal
  13. 04:10 - 04:24 Khitam's bedroom
  14. 04:25 - 04:40 Khitam talks to her fiancee via Skype on her laptop
  15. 04:41 - 04:59 Khitam shows her marriage document
  16. 05:00 - 09:37 Khitam's interview
  17. 09:38 - 12:01 Oum Aiman,s interview (Khitma's mother)
  18. 12:02 - 12:12 streets of Gaza city
  19. 12:13 - 12:19 Suhair enters her brother's house, the place where she stays
  20. 12:20 - 12:13 Suhair with her brother surrounded with her nephews talking to her children in Egypt through Skype in the laptop.
  21. 13:14 -13:36 Suhair shows her identity documents.
  22. 13:37 - 14:01 Shair with her daughter tidy her luggage.
  23. 14:02 - 14:13 Nada, Suhair's daughter, drawing
  24. 14:14 - 14:32 Nada plays with the children
  25. 14:33 - 19:14 Suhair's interview

Script

  1. soundbite (Arabic)
    Khitam Ali, : We got engaged during the closure of (Rafah) crossing. The marriage document was issued on 6th, January, 2015. I applied for the visa on 30th of January. It was released hardly. The subject of Rafah crossing is a big hard sufferance. I have asked all the governmental departments for mediation. I have made all the procedures and tried all the choices. I have suffered a lot. Each time I talked to my fiancée, I was telling him that I would come soon, Beiram! Just wait that week; depending on unachieved promises that got from the authorities; and hoping as citizens the crossing to open. We are waiting the sun of freedom to go outside freely. In a tension moment, when my visa expired two days ago, I was very very angry. And he was very angry too. Each of us left his work at night. We got quarreled together. Our thoughts were confused and aggressive because of the pressure imposed by his family and mine. We encountered a lot of pressure. This situation led us to an expulsion. He told me I on earth is this. I got tiered and so. I told him: Okay, I have got tiered more than you. After 15 minutes, we got quite, and he told me: ‘sorry Khitam. I did not mean that. Please forgive me. I apologize about what I have said. I love you and will keep my vow and promise.’ The political conflict is what makes our subject terrible. Each party wants to govern alone. And we are, the Palestinian people in the blockaded Gaza, are the victims in front of the world. If I had not got introduced to him and fallen in love with him, I might have refused him as any girl who can refuse a proposal in our Palestinian tradition. I might have said to myself that I would not have to continue this sufferance. But now, after I knew him, loved him, and plan our future together, it is very hard to tell him breaks our relationship. I told my parents frankly that I will sacrifice. I and Beiram has made a decision that as long as as Allah made our hope come true and allowed us to got married despite of the long distance between the two hearts, we must meet. Love knows no impossible. Allah joined two hears from very far countries. Therefore, and despite the blockade, the pain, and all the hard challenges we live in, I will not leave him. Because our love can allow us struggle and fight more than this. He told me: “ I will ask your father, Hassan, to name our first babe.”
  2. soundbite (Arabic)
    Oum Aiman, Khitam's mother, : Khitam has got introduced to a Tunisian female friend (Beiram’s sister) for 4 years. She used to talk to her. She liked Khitam as they (the Tunisian) love the Palestinian people. She asked me for her hand to her brother. The problem is the closure the crossings. She (Khitam) always asked me ‘when Allah will solve my problem. I am got confused. I don’t know what to do’. She became very nervous. Sometimes she collapses, cries and become sick because of the pain she feels in her heart. She always wonder: ‘ when will Allah put an end to my sufferance?’ I answer her to be optimistic. Her brothers are not satisfied with this matter. Her engagement period has extended to about two years. her brother and everybody in the family keep asking about when the marriage will be accomplished. Everybody wonders: ‘ why is she still in Gaza till the moment? Any man wishes to get married to her. Why don’t you leave him?’ therefore, they threatened her by divorce. I feel very painful for Khitam. It is true that she closed her own life, and she is no longer a child. So I am very sorry for her condition. If she got marriage to someone from her country, she would have got two babies. I feel a lot of pain in my heart because of Khitam’s sufferance. If I had knew this sufferance would happen, I would not accept this proposal and prevent Khitam to go on. If we did so, she might be affected by the refusal for some week and then forget.
  3. soundbite (Arabic)
    Suhair Shiekh Ali, : My name is Suhair Sheikh Khalil, 36 years old, a house wife. I have been married for 12 years. I have three children. This is my girl. Two boys, Mohamad (11years old) and Khalid (9 years old), are left with their father in Egypt. There was a wedding party for my nephew. Since that time, I had not visited Gaza for eight years. so I prepared the passports and traveled to Gaza. I had never asked about the situation in Gaza. I planned to stay for a month in the maximum. I had come to Gaza before that for twenty days. Everything was normal. There was no prior travel registration or any of the current procedures. I have been waiting for my turn to travel for ten months. I will be waiting for almost one year waiting. When I ask the authorities, they answer me to wait my turn. So, what to do? They asked me to wait for the next open of the crossing. The crossing opened and I was still trapped. The last time I went to the authorities, they asked me to submit a petition letter. I send a letter and asked them when they would consider my case. I got the same answer, ‘wait for your turn.’ I tried to convince my husband many times. I asked him to follow up the website of the Palestinian passengers department to know whether my name is listed for a next open of the crossing. I sent him my Palestinian identity number and all the codes related to follow up my travel issue. The family of my husband also considers me responsible of my long trap in Gaza. They accuse me by carelessness, and that I am responsible of leaving my children. Nobody has any idea about the situation I am trapped in. it is not my problem that they don’t follow up the news of Gaza Strip. I have tried a lot to convince them, but in vain. Did you know that my children has begun to blame me for being trapped in Gaza? When I left Egypt, my youngest child was in the second semester of the 5th elementary school. He failed in two subjects. He blamed me for his failure. He told me: ‘if you were with you would help me pass the exams.’ Their father never helps them in their study. He does not care. So what do you expect them to tell me. The last time I called the, they told me that we lost any hope that I will return. This is what exactly my eldest son said to me. He said: ‘ you’ve been leaving us for a long year.’ Even the children do not care about the actual situation of mine. This may be because they are not Palestinian and don’t know what the life of being a Palestinian looks like. I hope that everyone blames me passes be in the same situation of mine, so he can understand how I do suffer for being away of my children; and to know how my family has been destroyed because of being trapped here. The price I paid is that I have got separated from my husband. And only Allah knows whether I will be able to meet my children and join with them after all my tries to do so. All what can I say is that may Allah destroy this government. Enough is enough. What happens in Gaza is very terrible. No one expected such a condition of life. Many families have been destroyed because every party fights for its own interest. I am not the only case. There are cases similar to mine. There are also some Egyptians trapped in Gaza. Also many similar cases are trapped in the Egyptian side. What happens in Gaza is wrong. How long will this condition last?!