If only I could come home

A Palestinian woman was denied entry to Palestine last summer because she walked on a Jewish-only street in Hebron.

23-years-old Chicago-born Wedad Yasin entered Palestine in May 2012 with a 3-month Israeli visa on her American passport. She came back home to spend the summer with her family in Ein Yabrood, a village on the outskirts of Ramallah city.

Palestinian-American Wedad was an undergraduate student of Global Studies at Benedictine University in Chicago. Although born and raised in Chicago, she considers Ein Yabrood village, where most of her extended family members live, as her home.

“[Palestine] is home, my history, my culture, and my people,” she insisted.

After her visa expired in September, Wedad was obliged to leave to Jordan and come back in order to renew her visa. Wedad was planning to spend the fall with her family before she heads back to the Chicago in winter to finish her last term in University.

This time she was denied entry to Palestine. She was forced to leave everything behind in Ein Yabrood. She is the only member of her family who could not go back home to Palestine.

Wedad’s passport was stamped with the red “Entery Denied” stamp after a long wait in Allenby Bridge. She was not given an official reason for the rejection. Nonetheless, she believes that she was rejected entry because she was detained by the occupation forces earlier that summer in Hebron.

Wedad's passport stamped with an "Entery Denied" stamp

Wedad’s passport stamped with an “Entery Denied” stamp

“Her [Israeli immigration officer’s] words exactly were, ‘Do you remember what happened with the police?’” she recalled.

A Street Forbidden to Palestinians

On July 3, Wedad headed with some friends to visit the old city of Hebron. As part of the plan, she wanted to visit the Ibrahimi Mosque. “I also have friends who had never been [to Hebron] before,” she said. “I was taking them and showing them around.”

As they were heading towards the Ibrahimi Mosque, Wedad and her friend took the Shuhada Street, a street in Hebron forbidden to Palestinians.

Shuhada Street is a vital road in Hebron connecting the northern and central neighborhoods of the city. The street used to be a lively market before the city of Hebron was occupied in 1967.

Since the occupation, Kiryat Arba settlement was established. Gradually, the Israeli occupation started displacing the Palestinians from the heart of the city.

In 1994, Israeli settler Baruch Goldstein committed a massacre in the Ibrahimi mosque during dawn prayers leaving 29 Palestinians dead and dozens injured. Subsequently, the Israeli government punished the Palestinians and banned them from using Shuhada Street. Today, this vital street is only accessible by Israelis and tourists.

As Wedad and her friends approached Shuhada Street, the Israeli soldiers blocked their way. Wedad waved the American passports and told them she was a tourist and kept moving ahead.  Nonetheless, Israeli soldiers did not accept the fact that a tourist could be wearing Hijab. Wedad was arrested, with two of her friends, and was taken to the police station in Kiryat Arba settlement.

Brandon Davis, an American friend of Wedad, was present at the scene. He rolled his camera and approached the soldiers demanding an explanation for arresting his friends.

Brandon told one soldier who introduced himself as being “American too”: “If you are American, you know this [arresting the girls] is wrong.”

The Israeli soldier asked him: “What is wrong?”

“Having a dozen policemen because people are walking down the road,” said Brandon

The soldier’s response came as a shock to Brandon: “It is not people. So they are not allowed to be here.”

This statement by the soldier brings back to mind a position adopted by Israeli officials and pro-Zionist Americans. On December 2011, Republican frontrunner Newt Gingrich claimed that Palestinians are “an invented people”.

A Call for Boycott

Wedad and her friends were arrested for using a street forbidden to Palestinians.  “I was taken to the police station and held for seven hours. They questioned me and took my passport information and finger prints,” she said.

They were later bailed out by a lawyer of a local NGO. “He [the lawyer] came and signed papers. We had to sign papers and told we were not allowed back in Hebron for 15 days. They then had him drive us straight out of the city from the station,” Wedad recalls.

Many young Palestinian-Americans face entry denials to Palestine on regular basis. Nour Jouda, a school-teacher in Friends School in Ramallah, was also denied entry to Palestine earlier this year for unspecified “security” reasons.

Palestinians have constantly called the international community to join the call for BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanction) to help confront the Apartheid regime in Palestine. Wedad is one of those many voices. “People who come to enjoy the ‘privileges’ Israel provide for tourists that Palestinians cannot themselves enjoy are normalizing the situation,” she said. “By stimulating Israel’s economy through tourism you are supporting the occupation and its apartheid regime.”

Today, Wedad graduates with a bachelor degree in her hand. On her graduation day, finding a job is not on the top of her wish-list as the other graduates. “Now if only I could come home this summer,” she said.

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3 thoughts on “If only I could come home

  1. Pingback: If only I could come home | Ramy Abdeljabbar's Palestine and World News

  2. Pingback: If only I could come home | Palestine | Scoop.it

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