Crossing Erez

Erez2-575 Richard Moore in Guernica:

I’m ready to return to Israel through the Erez Crossing, the northern exit from Gaza. As the afternoon meeting wears on, I start to check the time, increasingly anxious about getting to Erez. I never know whether the crossing itself will take an hour, or three, or even days. Since Erez is subject to closing without notice, I ask my secretary to check just before I leave, trying to ensure I’ll be able to cross.

As the expatriate director of the largest maternal and child health project in the West Bank and Gaza, I come to Gaza at least once every month. The Gaza Strip is forty-five kilometers long and ranges from five to twelve kilometers in width. It is bounded by Israel in the north and east, by Egypt in the south, and in the west by the Mediterranean Sea. Approximately one and a half million mostly impoverished Palestinians live within its mere three hundred and sixty square kilometers, about twice the area of Washington, DC. More than half of the population is made up of refugees from the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Entrance to and exit from the strip—for Palestinians or anyone else—is strictly controlled by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). All entries and exits occur only through the few surface checkpoints. This is only one of the draconian Israeli policies involving Gaza. Others include controlling the amount of food and medicines and other essentials that can enter the Strip, as well as restrictions on fishing and exporting. The only cars I ever saw entering Gaza had UNRWA markings, or belonged to other UN or aid agencies. Most people cannot drive from one side to the other. Instead, they have to leave their cars or taxis and walk through one of the checkpoints.