Letter From the Palestine Festival of Literature

Laila Lalami in The Nation:

ScreenHunter_2065 Jun. 30 00.08“What’s the purpose of your visit?” the officer asked. The epaulets on his blue button-down shirt hung over his narrow shoulders. His eyebrows joined above the bridge of his nose.

“I’m here to give a reading.” I had come to Palestine with a group of poets and writers for a literary festival, with scheduled stops in Ramallah, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nablus, and Haifa.

The officer glanced at the line behind me. “How many are in your group?”

“I don’t know.”

“How many US passports?”

“I don’t know.”

He raised a suspicious eyebrow. “Everything is ‘I don’t know’ ?”

But I really didn’t know. I had met the other writers at a hotel in Jordan the night before, and it hadn’t occurred to me to count their number while we were on the bus from Amman to the Allenby border crossing, nor to ask how many were American. He swiped my blue passport in the machine, then looked up at me with surprise. “You were born in Morocco?”

Here we go, I thought. It had taken me 20 hours to travel from California to Palestine. I dreaded being deported by Israeli immigration, as had happened to some of my Arab friends. “Yes, that’s right.”

More here.