I’m one of thousands of Palestinian graduates who are stranded in a never-ending queue of unemployment.
I might sound terribly depressed to anyone who can find at least a part-time job after graduating from university, but I’m just another number in my home country.
I’m just one more person in Gaza roaming aimlessly, yet with so much hope and potential, especially after having studied for a year in the United States as an exchange student.
This is my story about a visit to Jerusalem.
I had been accepted to participate in an international educational program, which left me in disbelief. The idea of leaving the open-air prison of Gaza seemed impossible to me. But this was just the beginning.
I was told to be at the Erez checkpoint to travel onwards to Jerusalem for my visa interview. It was my first time as a 16-year-old that I had gone further than 30 miles from my house, in the south of the tiny Gaza Strip.
The 60-mile trip to Jerusalem should take less than 80 minutes by road, and it does in other countries, but in our case, as Palestinians, it takes much longer.
I headed towards the Israeli side of the checkpoint for inspection and interrogation.
We first had to go through multiple scanners and metal detectors, an enhanced version of airport security, with the addition of that you’re presumed guilty until proven innocent.
I was suspected of hiding something, under my sweaty clothes in the middle of June, and I was taken into a special inspection room where I was asked to strip naked.
It was my first time to be undressed in front of anyone, even my mother didn’t see me like that when I was that age.
I refused to take off my underwear even if it meant the cancellation of my permit, which had to be applied for several weeks prior to my travel.
I challenged the Israeli operative when he asked me to remove my underwear. I said to him in both Arabic and English that I will not take off any more clothes. After an argument, he agreed.
I waited for several more minutes before my clothes were returned after being scanned in another machine.