Baitulmaqdis Umrah 2016 Chapter 5: Entering Palestine

9 December 2016

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Today is the day! We are leaving Amman and entering Palestine, inshaAllah.

It was a really cold morning but we were all looking forward to the next leg of our Baitulmaqdis trip.

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We had a lovely stay at Olive Tree hotel. I consider our lodging place important because we need our restful sleep when travelling. There is a lot of walking involved thus, a good night sleep in a comfortable place is essential.

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Like I mentioned, this is le parents’ first winter trip and I kept nagging at them to wear jacket, wear additional clothings etc. One should never underestimate the weather because with all the climate changes, the weather has been unpredictable anywhere around the world.

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The views from the bus window. If you ever have the opportunity to travel to a place completely different from where you reside, take it. Seize the opportunity, take the risk, learn the differences, appreciate your conveniences and come back home with more gratitude for your country.

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A sight not usually seen on our city road. Herds of sheeps and goats.

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Our tour group leader has mentioned repetitively about today and how we should behave at the immigrations. We have heard a tremendous amount of ‘horror’ stories of people being detained simply because they are muslims. Of course, hearing about it is largely different from experiencing it.

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Entering the border. We were reminded to make lots of dua, may everything be eased, may we be protected against unwanted misunderstandings and unnecessary trouble etc. I was actually pretty calm about it, because my conscience was clear and my intentions were purified but the repetitive reminders did get to me and cause me to be a little anxious.

Once arrived, it was a long wait in the bus as there was a queue of vehicles. Thorough checks at borders was a norm anywhere around the world. After about 1.5 hours of waiting in the bus, we finally arrived at the immigrations.

Again, there was a long queue of people and since we were all being the typical law abiding Singapore citizens, we followed the instructions that given. It was such a long wait. I truly understand that not all immigration are as efficient as the ones in Singapore. However, it felt that they were purposely testing our patience. We have been warned about this, to stay calm and patient at all times. No arguing, no defying of rules and most important of all, no complaining.

Why do I say we were being tested on purpose? This was the situation. We were queuing as per normal and waiting for our turn and even though our legs were aching badly, we remained silent and patient. Sabr, they said, it is a necessary trait.

About 15 minutes into queuing, a group of tour group from Singapore (it looks like they are christians from a church) arrived. Seeing us queue, they formed another line and waited just like us. Within 10 minutes, some immigration officers came out and briefly checked their passports and they were allowed to leave. They were there for barely 15 minutes. Imagine our emotions seeing their lines moving and ours stagnating.

Sabr, they said.

When we finally reached the counter (le bestie’s family and my family were at the end of the line) the officer asked questions such as ‘What is my grandfather’s name? What are you here in this country? Answer as asked.

It seemed that almost all the young people in our group were given a different coloured sticker and were told to sit and wait, while they held onto our passports. Since I was among the last few and seeing how most of the young people (about 30 years old and below) were told to wait and not allowed to leave, I figured, maybe I will be able to pass through since I do not belong to the ‘30 years old and below’ group.

I was wrong.

Some of us were asked about our professions. Ok, for me, the only question they asked was ‘What was my grandfather’s name?’. I fail to see why this was necessary but ok.

Sabr, they said.

Most of the elder ones in the group passed through and were waiting outside for us. We had to move in a group so as long as any one of us is stuck, everyone had to wait. Mind you, our group had 2 young kids waiting outside for their father, who was being held back.

And so we waited and waited as the clock ticked away. We were obviously hungry and tired but fortunately, still remained in high spirits. We had nothing to hide and no reason to be detained so we were pretty calm. In fact, we used the waiting time to ‘bond’ and get to know each other. Frankly too, I am honoured that they classify me as ‘young’ because that seemed to be the criteria to be detained held back.

So after 4 hours of wait, they finally called our names we were allowed to go. The ladies were fortunate enough to be released first. It was only then I realised that my father was among those who were held back too. He sat away from us so I had no idea that he was not released. He is above 60 years old! Perhaps, he was classified as young judging from his outfit lol. He was wearing my brother’s hip jacket and cap. I didn’t know whether to laugh at him or feel sorry for him lol.

Thankful for our tour leaders for making sure everyone was safe and accounted for. Also, for always reminding us that Allah swt is with us and that there is no reason to be fearful.

Our faces after 4 hours lol.

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It was good to finally be reunited with our parents. Outside, they were distributing snacks for the hungry kids (and adults). So amazing to see such patient young parents travelling with little kids. I could barely even take care of myself.

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It was another hour of wait outside as some of the guys were still being held back. MashaAllah the patience displayed by everyone in our group, it was so admirable. No one was upset or angry. They simply accepted (redha) the situation as part and parcel of the plan. I learnt so much. In such trying times, to only have good thoughts in my head and to have good faith that all plans are His plans.

It was truly my first time being treated differently because of my religion. Growing up in multi-cultural and multi religious country, I have never been treated like this, can’t imagine our muslim community in other parts of the world who are treated different and discriminated because of such petty differences.

Sabr, they said. This world isn’t our final destination.

This view above welcomed us into Palestine. How relieved we felt when the bus finally started to move out from the immigration area. Alhamdulilah! Can’t wait to explore more of this historical and beautiful country.