The Road to Yaffa

Saturday, I was on a bit of a high from good news. I woke to this article and after many attempts of trying to call Derna, I finally got through and found out that my cousin, her husband, and 2 little girls were on the boat and arrived safely to Benghazi. Overjoyed is the understatement of the year. Next week, inshallah, my other remaining cousin in Tripoli will be on the next ship. My aunt told me the scene at the arrival of the ship was beyond any description or imagination. Mothers wailing from joy and shock at watching their sons, whom they were convinced had been killed in Gaddafi’s prisons, walking upright and right in to their arms…amazing.

Sufficed to say, I woke up Sunday morning, my day off, more than ready to head out on my weekly adventure.
Destination: Yaffa.

I had originally figured that I would wait to go to Yaffa for a day when some close friends would be there, but time is quickly beginning to fly by, so I figured I should go while I can, and then I could go again later as time allows.

I was excited about this trip, and I think safe to say more than the others so far. Maybe because I’ve made some good friends from and who grew up in Yaffa, maybe because of the place it holds in Palestinian history, maybe because of the amount of refugees I’ve met from Yaffa, maybe because of the stories from here and there that formed this image of Yaffa in my head and its experience – for whatever reason, I was particularly excited.

But then, something unexpected happened. I broke.

I knew it would happen sooner or later, I just really didn’t think it was going to be yesterday. I’ve been here a little over a month now, and I was starting to be convinced that if I hadn’t broken down until now, if the checkpoints, settlements, refugee camps of Nablus every Sunday, or East Jerusalem neighborhoods and families I met who were experiencing yet another round of dispossession had not made me break down, then the flood gates must have just been holding out for the trip to Isdoud.

Turns out, they were waiting for the road to Yaffa.

The odd thing is it wasn’t even seeing the city or the beach or the painful confusion of the Tel Aviv bus station. No. It was while in Jerusalem at the moment I started heading towards the service (servees) that would take me to Tel Aviv.

Adrieh told me when I got to Jerusalem to ask the driver or an Arab how to get to the sherut to Tel Aviv on Jaffa Street. So, I did. The driver from Ramallah started to explain and then stopped halfway, deciding apparently it would be easier to take me than explain. When I asked how much, he said not to worry about it. I got back on, sat down, and began, inexplicably, to weep.

I still don’t really know why, but suddenly the thought that I was heading toward Yaffa suddenly seemed like something else altogether. I think when I crossed the border at Bissan and then headed to Nazareth, spending the night in Ein Mahil the first night, I was too exhausted from the trip and distracted by the lovely Palestinian family that had taken us in, that being in “48” seemed to be more of an “about damn time” emotion than anything else. It was a stop on the road to Ramallah, maybe I was tunnel visioned still from the fear that I might not even make it across the border, I don’t know.

So, now, going to Yaffa was transformed. It was so many things. It would be the first time I’d see the sea in Palestine outside of Gaza. It would be the closest I’d ever been to Isdoud. It would be driving from the “territories” to the Palestine of stories and dreams. It would be this piece I almost didn’t believe was real. It would be seeing what was no more. It would be seeing what still is. It would be seeing what so many cannot fathom being able to see. Whatever the trip was transformed into and for whatever reason, I started crying in Jerusalem and didn’t stop until we pulled in to the bus station in Tel Aviv. It was a slow, quiet cry, and it was a long time coming.

I ate and spent a couple of hours on the beach. The beach has amazing powers. All beaches. They make you simultaneously remember and forget where you are and place you in a surreal peace. Afterwards, I walked around and explored the Old City, what is left of it, and took pictures for Khaled like I promised. The extent of my exploration was confined by the amount of Hebrew that surrounded me.

But, I will be back. The first go around, the journey might have been more important than the destination. Next time, the destination will get the credit it deserves.  I will see you again soon, Yaffa, promise.

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