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Foreign Dispatch: Visiting Gaza
by Fox News Radio’s Courtney Kealy
Driving back to Jerusalem after a few hot humid days in Gaza, it’s like crossing into different galaxies. As I gaze out over the green mountains climbing above the coastline, John Lennon is on a CD the taxi driver has just popped in singing “Imagine there’s no country it isn’t hard to do, nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too.”
An agreement for Israel and the Palestinians to restart direct peace talks after a 20-month deadlock has just been announced
I always choke up on the line, “you may say I’m a dreamer but I’m not the only one.”
I’ve been covering another conflict, the Iraq war for the last several years. But, the hatred, frustration heartbreak and concrete blast walls are the same in every conflict these days.
The last time I traveled to Gaza was five years ago. I remember noting the cement two story blast walls being put in place at Erez, the border crossing between Southern Israel and Gaza and thinking Gaza would be further sealed away from the world.
Now, half a decade, one more war and the Hamas takeover, I arrive at Erez again.
Gazing at the shiny glass terminal that would rival an airport in most small countries I hoist my backpack on one shoulder and wheel my equipment case towards the Israeli security booth. After being cleared, I walk through the modern maze like corridors following the pointing arrows with one painted word above them reading “Gaza.”
Then the modernity stops at a huge cement wall and a small metal door. It feels like stepping off and out of a movie set. The door opens to a landscape of sand dunes, farmland in the distance, scuttling lizards and a cement corridor framed by chicken wire and topped with tin stretching for a mile and a half.
A porter in a scrubby satin blue vest greets me and wheels my gear the whole way until we arrive at a metal turnstile. I push the case and myself through and head to the Palestinian Authority checkpoint. The only reason the PA is allowed here is so Hamas won’t have to coordinate or talk directly with the Israeli side.
My local colleague greets me and we drive to the Hamas checkpoint. The Hamas official doesn’t answer when I greet him with a hello in Arabic with my hand over my heart as opposed to an outstretched handshake, which would be unwelcome between a man and a woman. He never once lifts his eyes towards me as he processes my passport and hands it back. His hostility rises off him, as does the heat off the sand outside. There is a sign that says any alcohol brought in by a visitor is to be poured out in front of them. It’s posted alongside a few Koran verses or two on the walls of the trailer serving as their official border entry.
We start our drive to Gaza City alongside a sparkling sewage strewn Mediterranean sea and cement blocks of shabby housing doused in graffiti for various political factions and every once in a while a declaration of love announcing an engagement or a wedding with a spray painted rose or a streamer of hearts.
In the ten years I have covered stories in Gaza it has never felt more decrepit, more lost or isolated.
And yes, I still hope some day it will join us in the world to live as one.