SJP Conference 2011: Rafah-like experience to La Guardia

Flight control put us on standby for thirty minutes until La Guardia cleared the plane for landing. The crew and the passengers patiently waited. As the plane taxied itself to the edge of the runway, we were delayed again. And then again.

We finally touched down in New York and I arrived to the conference, although much later than expected. Consequently, I missed the Opening and Keynote Address, but I’ve been told that a recording has been produced and will soon be available. For those following the SJP Conference coverage, I will update you when I find more details.

Nevertheless, the flight from Chicago to New York oddly reminded me of the Palestine we students are gathering to serve. The long and stressful waiting, the crushed hope, and the inability to determine when I’d make it to the other side brought me back to Rafah where I waited two days to cross Gaza’s besieged borders into Egypt this summer.

This is what makes the occupation of Palestine so easily relatable to even the most apolitical American. The passengers on my flight, each and every one of them, sighed, shouted, and cursed whenever another delay was announced. This only lasted for a few hours but people were agitated and frustrated. Some even felt violated. The airline pilots apologized profusely and the flight crew did its best to ease the tension and make the delays bearable at least.

In Palestine, however, this “delay” has lasted decades and apologies, as infrequent as they may be, are not accepted. The SJP Conference will soon put an end to this delay, and I am proud to be a part of what is soon to come.

Sami Kishawi

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