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Our Journey to Israel and Palestine

Our Journey to Israel and Palestine

Published in March 29th  

Authored by: Dr. Ahmed Subhy Mansour

Translated by: Ahmed Fathy

 Introduction:

 We have been absent for a week from our Quranism website; we have notified beforehand our fellow Quranists of this absence within a comment under the last one of our articles, telling everyone to continue publishing their comments and articles during our temporary absence. We did not tell them about the reason for our absence; we went on a journey to Palestine, passing through Tel Aviv and then we reached the city of Nablus. We write this article about this journey, its reason and its events, in order to record part of our personal history as a witness, as this has been our first journey to Israel and Palestine; in fact, this is our second journey outside the USA after obtaining the American nationality. 

 

Firstly: the reason of our absence has been to attend the wedding party of our son, Amir Mansour:

 Amir is our third son, and he is a genius in his work, as a computer engineer specializing in creating and maintaining internet websites; he holds a prestigious post at the University of Maryland. The physical and facial features of Amir, more than the rest of our sons, resemble very much our late honored father, sheikh Mansour M. Ali Ibrahim. In fact, Amir, more than the rest of our sons, is the one who, more often than not, helps everyone else around him as best as he can; he voluntarily offers technical support to our Quranism website and he is its webmaster. Our problem with Amir has been his hesitancy; previously, he hesitated for a long time to get married as he did not find his soul-mate and chosen partner in life. At last, Amir has met an American Muslim young woman, Bisan, who works in an international civil organization that cares for the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank; the bride's parents are Americans of Palestinian origin; her father is a retired professor of mathematics and her mother has obtained the MA degree. Amir and Bisan have decided to get married and we felt overjoyed because our son has found his dream girl. The bride's parents decided to return to their native village which is located near Nablus in the Palestinian territories; they desired that after the wedding party in the USA, there should be another wedding party in Nablus, as the father of Bisan is building a house in a piece of land he owns there. Of course, getting into the West Bank entails that we enter into Israel first. In fact, we tried to avoid this journey, because of our old age and poor state of health, by attending the wedding party in the USA and the ceremony of drawing the marriage contract celebrated at our home in VA; we are the one who has written and registered the marriage contract by the power authorized to us as a marriage registrar in VA. We have also arranged another party (which we have not attended, of course) at our native village, Abou Herez, in Al-Sharqiyah Governorate, Egypt, in honor of Amir and Bisan so that we could offer an excuse to avoid traveling to attend the wedding party in Nablus; this long journey would be very tiring to our person because of our poor health. Yet, Amir has his charming nature; he (like our person) does not like to insist on anyone to do anything; when he heard our begging to be excused from traveling to Nablus, Amir seemed apparently agreeing with us, but his facial features showed otherwise; he felt very sad; hence, we have changed our mind so as not to let him down; we assured him we will attend the wedding party in Nablus, since we will not be able to attend the wedding party in Cairo.                 

 

Secondly: the journey to Tel Aviv:

1- We have our share of very painful memories about security measures, because of our suffering from them for 25 years in Egypt, where we have been persecuted by the security men. This is why we felt extremely worried as we have heard about the very strict security measures at the airport in Tel Aviv; people there check everything thoroughly and interrogate everyone meticulously, especially those of Arab origin, like our person, even if they have obtained the American nationality. We have heard that the same very strict measures are taken when one leaves Israel; some people have missed their plane because of the long duration of such interrogations. We have also heard about the security checkpoints between Israel and the West Bank and inside the West Bank and how people there are suffering harsh treatment and strict measures and how they stand in long queues while waiting interminably. One of the Quranists, a Palestinian man, has written an article on our website about such security checkpoints and we believed him initially; we have written an article about this topic to attack these strict measures and to urge the Israeli authorities to alleviate them and to treat peaceful Palestinians kindly in general and at these checkpoints in particular (this is the link of our article in English: http://www.ahl-alquran.com/English/show_article.php?main_id=17605).     

2- Fearing to suffer any strict or humiliating security measures at the airport in Tel Aviv and at the checkpoints in the Palestinian territories when we arrive and when we leave, we have contacted our Jewish friend Charles Jacob; both he and our person share a common history as we have participated in establishing the Boston-based non-profit organization Americans for Peace and Tolerance (APT) (http://www.peaceandtolerance.org/about/directors/sheikh-dr-ahmed-mansour/). Besides, our noble friend, Charles Jacob, has supported and helped our person many times before on several occasions; we have told him about our journey and our fears, and he felt very glad to help; he told us to send him photocopies of the tickets and the passports of all those who will go on this journey to Israel, and he promised to send these photocopies to some of his friends in Israel to facilitate matters to us. Besides, Charles Jacob promised to contact some of his Israeli acquaintances in the academic circles among professors and those who are interested in our reformist intellectual project so that we could meet them and get acquainted with them.    

3- Thus, we embarked on our journey while feeling relieved. Amir went there first on Monday, 19th of March, and arrived to the Ben-Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv on Tuesday morning, whereas our person, our wife, and my eldest son, Mohamed Mansour, arrived at night on the same Tuesday. It was arranged that in the very next day, our fourth son, Hossam Mansour, will catch up with us, as he will arrive from LA, and our second son, Sherif Mansour, will arrive in the following day. Once we landed in the Ben-Gurion Airport, unlike what we expected, our person and our wife got the entry visa so easily in little time; in contrast, our son Mohamed was interrogated for about two hours at the airport. Amir called our person and told us how he was interrogated for more than five hours and a half upon his arrival; Amir has provided all the details about his wedding party, his bride and her parents, and the guests who will attend the wedding party; Amir has provided photocopies of the passports while hoping that this will facilitate matters for his parents and brothers. There was no need for them at the airport to interrogate our son Mohamed; maybe he was interrogated for two hours merely because of his first name!     

4- Our noble friend, Charles Jacob, has made us get acquainted, via email, with his friend professor Max Singer, a retired university professor who used to work before as a Fellow at Hudson Institute; this is also where we worked as a Fellow in 2005 and delivered a lecture there about Quranism and Quranists. Professor Singer, who is over 80 years old, is a very great and noble man; he has prepared for our person a program to meet those people who are interested in our reformist trend among professors and academicians and those who are interested in restoring peace in the Middle East. Professor Singer has arranged that professor Hillel Frisch, the professor of political sciences at Bar-Ilan University, will receive us at the airport to drive us from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem; he was waiting for us and contacted us; since we were waiting for the interrogation of our eldest son to end, we sincerely thanked professor Frisch and begged him to go back, as we did not know when the interrogation of Mohamed would end.      

 

Thirdly: the suffering because of carrying too many luggage:

1- The second reason of our suffering later on during this journey was carrying too many luggage; our wife insisted, as typical of her, to bring so many clothes and gifts to our relatives in Egypt, as she does every time she visits Egypt. Each time before she would visit our relatives and family members in Egypt, she typically goes shopping for clothes and gifts in VA and ask our sons to pay for them; our sons never refuse to gratify their mother. Within an earlier journey of our wife and some of our sons to Egypt to attend the wedding party of our fifth son, Sameh Mansour, held in our native village, Abou Herez, our wife and sons carried fourteen bags and one of the bags was lost at Cairo Airport. Within this journey, our wife had twelve bags; all these bags are supposed to be carried from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, from Jerusalem to Nablus, from Nablus to the King Hussein bridge, and then to Jordanian capital, Amman, and finally to Cairo, Egypt! Eventually, our eldest son's interrogation ended and he got his entry visa, and we got out of the Ben-Gurion Airport with the luggage to look for a microbus to carry us along with the luggage to Jerusalem.   

2- Before our journey, Mohamed suggested that we travel directly from Tel Aviv to Nablus with the luggage and then our person would travel to Jerusalem to meet with those whom professor Singer has arranged for us to meet. This has been the best suggestion, but we refused to listen to our son because of our fear that we might suffer strict security measures at the security checkpoints between Nablus and Jerusalem inside the West Bank and between the West Bank and Israel; in fact, we insisted on spending the two days of encounters in Jerusalem first before all of us would go to Nablus. This was a wrong decision of ours based on false information about possible suffering and humiliation that might be experienced at security checkpoints.

3- The second wrong decision has caused more fatigue and physical pain to our person; Hossam has reserved rooms to all of us inside a hotel inside the Old City in East Jerusalem, because Mohamed loved very much to visit the Old City. 

4- The microbus we had taken reached the Al-Khalil Gate (a.k.a. Jaffa Gate) near the Old City; the driver helped us put the luggage on the pavement. To our surprise, we learned that cars cannot enter into the Old City and through its gates since its serpentine streets are too narrow and paved with basalt; these intersecting streets have their ups and downs and fit only for walking on foot; bazaars fill both sides of all streets there; this is a paradise for tourists just like Khan Al-Khalili District in Cairo and with similar crowdedness. This is ideal for young people; yet, what about an old man like our person who use a walking stick and suffers pains in the knees, in the back, and in the joints? What about the twelve bags thrown on the pavement at midnight with our person, our wife, and Mohamed standing helplessly beside them? We were in a muddle and could not know what to do; many of the passers-by gave us a look of astonishment!          

5- An Israeli police patrol stopped by us as we stood on the pavement; the patrol consisted of Arab Israelis and their leader was very polite; he talked to us using the Palestinian dialect and understood our suffering; he phoned the hotel and arranged for someone there to come and carry our luggage; we waited within a state of fatigue, gloom, and vexation for an hour, until a man came from the hotel with a bell-boy, and both felt terrified when they saw our luggage; a debate ensued that led to nowhere, and finally, a man volunteered to bring a wheelbarrow to carry the bags to the hotel; we gave him 100 shekels. Thus, the problem was solved after too much fatigue (unimagined by us, as we never saw this coming) which we would never wish to occur even to our worst foes. At the age of 69, we walk heavily and laboriously within a slow pace; we have not walked on foot since many years now; walking few steps (and ascending/descending stairs) is very painful to an old man like ourselves with weak bones; we have walked through our own Via Dolorosa through the serpentine streets of the Old City for an hour until we reached the hotel; they deceived us by saying that it would be a ten-minute walk! We were afraid lest we might take a fall and break our bones; more pains were caused to our already suffering body as we ascended the stairs inside the hotel. Most of the bags were entrusted to the hotel manager. Thus, the first night of our journey ended with unimagined physical and psychological pain.       

6- It was arranged that in the next day, Hossam will catch up with us, and he was interrogated for about an hour at Ben-Gurion Airport, despite the fact that he was told there about Amir and people there told Hossam that they wished the bridegroom a very happy marriage; Sherif arrived a day later, and he was also interrogated for about an hour at Ben-Gurion Airport. Soon enough, the American friends of Amir and Bisan arrived, as they were the guests invited to attend the wedding party that will be held in Nablus.

 

Fourthly: the journey will not include Egypt:

1- After attending thewedding party in Nablus, we and our son, Sherif, will return home to the USA, while the rest of our family will continue their journey, with their luggage, to Jordan so that they travel to Egypt to attend the wedding party that will be held in Cairo. We cannot attend this wedding party in Cairo, since we are prevented by the Egyptian authorities from entering Egypt. Our extended family members in Egypt will come from the rural village in Al-Sharqiyah Governorate to attend this wedding party; we have not seen them since 1998; it seems that we will die without seeing them in person!

2- We cannot attend the wedding party that will be in April in Cairo, Egypt, and the same applies to our second son Sherif. The military regime in Egypt in 2011 has sentenced him in absentia to a two-year term of imprisonment. This is a great honor to Sherif Mansour. The Egyptian authorities have accused him of providing foreign fund to help in the outbreak of the 25th January 2011 revolt, deemed by the authorities as a foreign conspiracy against Egypt. Sherif was working at the time at Freedom House, in the USA, an organization that aims to spread democracy and freedoms, and he headed the department of the Middle-East and North Africa. Until now, he, like our person, cannot come to Egypt. This is our inescapable fate!

3- We continue in the next article.

 

 

 

COMMENTS:

 

(1) Hisham Al-Saeedi: I feel glad you have returned home safely, dear Dr. Mansour. That your good wife lost one bag at Cairo Airport at one time reminded me with the good joke about a man who performed prayers inside a mosque that contains a mausoleum dedicated to a female saint in Cairo, and when he found out that his pair of shoes were stolen, he rebuked himself for performing prayers at a woman's place!    

(2) Saeed Ali: Congratulations to Amir and the blessed Mansour family members! I felt your absence keenly and acutely; the website was like a house with dimmed lights! I sincerely wish that when Amir returns from his honeymoon, he'd introduce a chat-feature on the website and an icon-feature to know who is online and so on. I'm looking forward to the rest of the series of these articles about your great and important journey to Israel and Palestine and what you have experienced there. May God bless and protect you, my dear Dr. Mansour.    

(3) Abdelghani Bouchouar: I thank the Lord God for your safe return home to VA. Indeed, mothers and fathers do anything in the world to please their dear children who carry on their name and take their resemblance. Congratulations to the happy couple, and we implore the Lord God to grant you, my brother Dr. Mansour, good health and a long life to continue wowing readers with your writings and reformist ideas that fight ignorance, obscurantism, and tyranny. 

(4) Adel Bin Ahmad: Congratulations to Mr. Amir Mansour; may God grant him good progeny!

(5) Rabeei Bouaqal: Welcome back to the website, Dr. Mansour, and congratulations to the happy couple! I'd have liked to offer a bouquet of red roses to Amir and his bride; let me instead offer them this funny anecdote, while wishing them love and every happiness in the world: at one time, I was the elected mayor of my native village in Algeria; a long queue of peasants was formed before my eyes and before the scribe who helped me write their names so as to distribute to them the fodder for their animals later on; a man of my tribe disregarded the long queue and demanded to have his name written before everyone else because he was in a hurry; I told the scribe to write his name on top of the list; when others felt angry and expressed their being displeased and annoyed by what I have said, I told him that all of them came to get fodder for their animals, while this man was an animal who walked on four legs to get the fodder, and animals pass through crowds of human beings without thinking! All of them burst out laughing! Even the man whom I described as an animal kissed my head and laughed!       

(6) Reda Amer: Congratulations, dear brother! May God bless the newly married couple and grant them matrimonial bliss! May God grant you and your noble family members all the happiness and joy!

(7) Mustafa Ismail Hammad: Congratulations to the bride and the bridegroom; if I knew about the party in Abou Herez, I'd have been honored to attend the joyful celebration; my village is very near to your native village, Dr. Mansour, as you know.

(8) Dr. A. S. Mansour: We thank all of you, our beloved Quranists. We implore the Almighty Lord God to aid our person to continue our intellectual jihad on our website; we cannot find words enough to express our gratitude to all of you, except to implore the Lord God to allow all Quranists to meet in the Hereafter in Paradise after bestowing His mercy on them. 

 


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