This week, Israel hosts the international song contest Eurovision in Tel Aviv, under the slogan of “Dare to Dream.” Many across Europe have come hundreds of miles to Israel for the festivities but, even though I live less than an hour’s drive away in the Gaza Strip, I’m not allowed to make the trip.
Israel, in coordination with Egypt, has turned Gaza into an open-air prison, caging in the two million of us Palestinians living in the small territory. For almost 12 years, Israeli authorities have largely limited travel to “exceptional humanitarian cases” – an unlawful generalized travel ban not based on any individualized assessment of security risk. The number of people travelling out of Gaza in 2018 via the Erez Crossing in was about 1 percent of what it was in September 2000, before the closure was imposed.
Despite our difficult reality, I dared to dream for years of traveling and seeing the world and nearby Jerusalem, also just a short drive away. Last year, the Israeli army permitted me to leave Gaza for the first time in my life, as a 31-year-old, to attend meetings for Human Rights Watch in New York. I later received another permit to visit Israel and the rest of Palestine for the first time, taking in every moment, knowing I may never have the opportunity again.
I wish those attending Eurovision could visit me in Gaza and experience our reality, such as rolling power cuts that last most of the day, and the psychological torment of feeling trapped and unable to travel through no wrongdoing of your own.
We Palestinians of Gaza may not be able to attend Eurovision, but we will never stop daring to dream.