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Getting into Gaza: A lesson in patience

By Ilene R. PrusherStaff writer / January 27, 2009



Reporters on the Job: Neither Egypt nor Israel gave journalists much access to the Gaza Strip during the hostilities.

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By the time the cease-fire came into effect just over a week ago, Israel had started allowing in a daily pool of six reporters of its own choosing.

This was all happening amid a court battle on the part of the Foreign Press Association of Israel, which was trying to force Israel to open the border to all reporters.

In the meantime, many of us starting seeking entry through Egypt. For me, based in Jerusalem, it required flying from Tel Aviv to Amman, Jordan, and then to Cairo, as there were no direct flights for several days last week.

In Cairo, all reporters had to get a letter notarized from their embassies, stating that we were assuming responsibility for our own safety. Then, we had to take that to the Egyptian government press center to obtain a letter stating that we were authorized to cross the border.

During the five-hour drive from Cairo to Rafah – the name of the town on both the Egyptian and Gazan sides of the border – we were stopped at no fewer than four checkpoints and asked to produce our papers.

The five-hour drive was followed by a 4-1/2-hour wait in Rafah. I was starting to lose my patience. I told a man who I thought was in charge of the bus departure to the Gazan side that we would have happily walked the 100 yards to the other side, but this isn’t allowed. I said I was pretty rushed to get to people who were waiting for me.

“You’re rushed?” he said. “I lost four relatives in this war.”

He was a Palestinian who was on his way home from his studies abroad.

I stopped complaining after that.

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