By Rawan Yousef Salah, Nablus, The West Bank
Finally, it was time for departure. The trip supervisor finished checking the students’ list on the bus. The driver closed the door, and the bus moved slowly in a way that annoys me, but my heart danced for joy. I turned to my colleague in the seat behind me and a smile appeared on my lips: We have started, we will be happy and we will play.
It was such a bright and beautiful morning! Suddenly there was silence in response to the journey supervisor’s request, to listen to what she was going to say about the guidelines of the journey – regarding behaviour upon the arrival at a military checkpoint, or in case of objection by an Israeli military patrol to our bus crossing, and other types of instruction.
Once the supervisor completed her instructions, the bus driver warned us that we were approaching one of the permanent hard military roadblocks and asked us to remain calm and not to worry as we pass through it. The bus stopped and the driver opened the doors and asked us to disembark and stand in a long row. Some of the soldiers boarded the bus to inspect, while others stayed to observe. Their eyes moved on us one after the other; at times we were shivering, and the rest of time we kept quiet, tears here and there, successive breaths, minutes passing like hours, until the soldiers finished the inspection and their questions about the necessary permits and about route and objectives of the trip. Then we were allowed to board – without believing that we were given the permission to cross after this suffering. We started on our way again.
Shortly after, I felt a severe headache and dizziness. I laid my head on the back of the seat, shut my eyes, and somehow I went to sleep despite the joy and singing voices of the students … which turned into a beautiful dream, the voices of celebration, a large yard filled with decorations, flags, and voices singing songs. There was no limit to the number of participants in this celebration of all groups and ages, all delighted and happily waiting for the commencement of the ceremony.
I was astonished by what I saw and heard. I began to look for someone to ask about the reason for the celebration, or a banner referring to the great occasion; the radio broadcaster interrupted my astonishment to announce the start of the tenth anniversary of the independence of the State of Palestine…
What? Independence? State? Palestine? The tenth anniversary? What’s going on? Where am I, in which year are we? Am I dreaming or is it the reality?
I felt a severe dizziness. I fell on the ground, not knowing what had happened. Then I woke up, opened my eyes to a gentle voice … “you wake up little one, what happened to you?” I paid attention to the voice, which belonged to a beautiful nurse with a smiling face and white uniform … Where am I?
"You are here safe in the celebration clinic’s ambulance." Which celebration is this?
"The tenth anniversary of the independence of Palestine." Did Palestine really gain independence? When? In which year are we?
"Yes, Palestine gained independence in the year 2008, ten years ago and we are now in the year 2018." Really, oh God, and how those ten years have passed! What were they like?
"Yes, little one, the Palestinian people gained freedom and independence and built everlasting statehood on this land, and we now enjoy full freedom, we freely move, no barriers or assassinations, no prison jailer or prisoners, no orphans and bereaved, no houses to demolish or mosques to profane, no explosions here or incursions there, no refugees or displaced persons, everyone is free to live here in Palestine. We celebrate, learn, get married, travel, and stay wherever we like; on our land, in our courts, in our schools, in a mosque, in the garden, in Palestine the love, goodness, and safety." Madam is it true that we have state our own?
"Yes, little one; we have free and recognised borders, we travel to any country by plane, ship, car or train. We roam the sky, plow the land and sail across the seas. The occupation ended after the two parties signed the Palestinian-Israeli peace treaty ten years ago, and we became a free nation like the rest of the world’s nations, and do not fear anything except All Mighty Allah.” O God, the dream has become true. Thank you Lord.
“Rawan, Rawan, wake up! We have arrived!” It was the voice of my colleague in the bus seat.
There I was on the bus; the students were ready to go into the city.
– Rawan Yousef Salah is a 9th Grade student at Qablan Secondary Girls School, south of Nablus. This article was written for the "Imagine 2018" essay competition (www.imagine2018.org), and is distributed by the Common Ground News Service (CGNews) in collaboration with One Voice (www.onevoicemovement.org). It can be accessed at www.commongroundnews.org. (Republished with permission)