A Journey to Germany
In summer 2003 I took part in a journey to Germany as the leader of a group of 5 Palestinian young people for a cultural exchange, in which 7 countries of middle-Europe and the Mediterranean countries were involved.
As Palestinians we are not allowed to start from the airport Ben Gurion without a special permission of the military authority, therefore we must always travel over Jordan, which means more trouble, expenses and stress. The inviting Germans wanted to try to get a permission for the airport Ben Gurion, and so we prepared all the necessary papers, to be able to direct this application to the Israel military in the district of Bethlehem with the help of a Palestinian connection office. We also prepared the papers and the flying tickets over Jordan… for all cases. One month before the journey we applied for the visa for the ten-days-sojourn in Germany. The answer from the military we got only a few hours before the flight – it contained only 4 permissions – I myself got a refusal – for security reasons, as was said.
On July 1. I started early in the morning in the direction of Jericho, where the border bridge between the occupied Palestinian territories and Jordan is controlled by the Israel military. I passed two checkpoints, the first was Kantina, the second at the main entrance to Jericho. Although I had started early in the morning, I stood at every checkpoint for over 2 hours, and it was 4 o´clock in the afternoon, when at last I reached Amman, very tired and exhausted.
I took some rest in the hotel, and early in the morning of the next day I drove to the international airport in Amman to take the Jordan line directly to Germany. I was surprised to hear at the airport, that I could not take the intended plane, because with this I would land two hours before the beginning of the validity of my visa on European ground. And this meant a violation of the law. I went to the office of the Jordan airline and was told, that there was no other flight within the next 3 days. I drove back to Amman-town and went to a travelling-office to look for another flight on the same day and actually found a flight with Air France, however with a stopover in Paris-Orly.
I reached the airport Frankfurt on Friday at 6 o´clock in the morning. It was planned, that someone named Martin should wait there for me. However I didn’t find him, also no signpost with my name. So I turned to an information stall and asked to call out for Martin and say that I was already at the airport. But it didn’t work out. What however hurt me very much, was that an employee who had asked for my name burst out laughing I had better change my name Ussama. I asked him to call Martin on his handy, and when Martin did not answer the employee spoke the following: Come, Usama bin Laden is leaving some news for you. He is waiting at the airport, come and pick him up.”Then he got up and Laughed with his colleagues.
I waited there for 2 hours. Then I called Martin again. He told me that a woman named Anna was at the airport to fetch me and bring me to the conference. I asked the employee to call out Anna by loudspeaker, but that also didn`t work out. So I decided to take a taxi to the conference place on my own. When I went out a person came to me and whispered ”Ussama?”. It was Anna. I asked why she had come so late. She said, she had already been in the airport since the early morning, but she had been afraid to hold up a poster with the name of Ussama. I was angry and shocked about all that had happened so far, but that was already the beginning.
At last I reached the conference-place and met my group, who had started later than me and had arrived there long ago. At the conference I made new friends, we talked and discussed, exchanged our dreams and wishes, and then came the time of the flight back, and the distress started anew.
On Sunday, early in the morning I left Germany in the direction of France, where I arrived at 10.30.When I went to the transit to get my passport stamped, the officer told me, that I was not allowed to travel to Jordan without an entrance permission. Actually I only had a permission to travel to Jordan over the bridge, as one generally needs it as a Palestinian. But unfortunately this permission was written in Arabic, and the officer could not read Arabic. So he suggested to call a colleague of Maroccan origin for help. When I told him that I had hardly time because the plane was due to fly at 12 o´clock he told me I should not worry and when the Arabic colleague arrived in the last minutes I got the permission and rushed to the gate. An officer closed it before my eyes. I asked him to let me still get in. He refused with the argument, the plane door was already closed. I was shocked, sad and completely frustrated.
I went to the French Airlines to complain and ask how I could get to Jordan now. They told me I should not worry, there was a plane in the evening. But when I showed my passport there came a surprise. He said, he was sorry, but I could not take this plane, because most of the passengers in this plane were Israelis. I silently said to myself I actually should be afraid of my own name. I was told not to worry, another plane would go the next day at 12 o´clock noon. He booked this flight for me and also a room in a nearby hotel with noon- and evening meal. I was al little glad and said to myself, that in this way I could at least sleep a little bit. When I wanted to leave the airport, the policeman told me, that I was not allowed to leave the airport, because my visa had ended, and if I left I could not get in any more. I went back to Air France and told them: ” I don`t want a hotel or anything. I only want to get home!” They asked what was the matter and I explained it to them. They said that was no problem . They could get a visa for another 24 hours. We went together to the police office of the airport. I filled in the application form and after less than 1 hour the policeman came back, he held my passport in his hand and said, my application had been refused. When I asked for the reasons the answer was: “Your name is Ussama und you are a Palestinian. These are enough reasons to refuse the application.
Night in Paris
I was close to a break-down. All that could not really be true! I went back to the room in which I was allowed to stay. Soon I was alone as all the shops and restaurants were closing. There was darkness outside and I saw a fireworks in the sky of Paris and the illuminated Eiffel-Tower. A security-officer asked me why I was still there, and when I had told him everything he showed a little bit of sympathy and explained to me that France would celebrate the next day the storm onto the Bastille and the French Revolution. Several other security officers still came till the early morning and questioned me, so that I could not even sleep, apart from the fact that there was no real sleeping place at all. In the morning I went to the gate and waited there till noon. I got into the plane and successfully reached Amman. I went to a hotel and slept till the next day, as the bridge in the occupied territories opened not before 8 a.m. and closed again at 4 p.m. although there were many travelers in both directions.
I left the hotel in Amman in the direction of bridge on Tuesday, 15.7. at 5o´clock p.m. to make sure to get over the border. And so I was the first to cross the bridge. At 9 p.m. I reached the Palestinian border-post under Israel control. After I had handed out suitcase and passport, the officer asked me to wait a little, to be questioned then by the Israel secret service. After more than an hour I was called into the secret service place. There I had to wait again for more than an hour on the corridor till I was called into the secret-service office, where two officers were sitting and asking me more than 1000 questions – to my person, my family, my journey, the people I had met there, whom I had come to know and so on, and so on. They questioned me for three hours! Then at last they told me that I could go back to the entrance hall, they would send me the officer with the passport.
I waited for half an hour and saw then, how the officer handed my passport to another one in the hall. I waited for another half an hour and when they did not call me I turned to that officer and asked for my passport. When he told me, that he did not have it, I told him, that it was lying in front of him. He cried at me: “No – go and sit down!” One and a half hours later he called me and gave me my passport. After that I drove to Bethlehem and arrived there during the night.