I can see the West Bank lights come on across the valley as we head to one of our remote refugee clinics. I can see the temple mount in the distance if I take a short five-minute drive to the top of the hill. I now have active projects in every country that borders the promised land: Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Egypt.
With wars still raging in Iraq and Syria, today I find myself in the middle of the Palestinian territory for the controversial announcement by #45 which has the potential to seemingly unhinge the region. Announcements from the embassy warning of backlash start to roll in as wide-spread protests began to break out. I have no idea what my family back home is hearing.
I board my flight as, across the Arab world, thousands of protesters take to the streets. Most are generally “peaceful”, although angry shouts ring out with violent words directed at America from social media and live news feeds streaming from mobile phones all around me. I pretend I don't understand the language and smile hoping I look British.
I am the only white girl on the small plane. Two guys sitting next to me begin to read the newspaper article aloud regarding the announcement and calling for “death to America” and a “day of rage”, which later turned into multiple days of rage. I bury my head in my book and sink a little lower in my seat.
En route from the airport, I look out the window as my driver explains there are small groups of protesters gathering. My phone lights up with photos of crowds of protesters around the region. Thankfully, Egypt has largely tightened security to prevent any large public gatherings. As I arrive at my hotel, although it’s midnight, live coverage from local news is blaring while many watch with intensity.
I wake early the next morning, and debate my plans as I sit on my balcony overlooking the pyramids and the crazy Cairo traffic. Even at 7am, honking and smog assault my senses, as my regrets of never visiting Syria before the war linger in my mind. I decided to just go for it and escape for an hour to the pyramids – thinking it may be my last chance to see them if things go badly in the region. It’s a highly-guarded site, which is a nice escape. It also makes for a few good photos to ensure my family I’m safe!
Back at my hotel, I decide to finish my meetings, keep a low profile, and scurry back to Doha as soon as I can. I have hugely successful meetings with our refugee partners, securing plans for our first 40-foot relief container into Yemen, as well as the set-up of medical and education projects in Egypt and Djibouti to support more than 500,000 refugees. I love this part of the work – pure entrepreneurial hard work as we figure out all the logistics to collaboratively make the most impact. And, in the process we forget what’s going on outside.
Because of the current embargo in Qatar, I have to fly through Jordan to get home, where more than 2 million Palestinians reside. As I make my way from the airport to the guesthouse, I begin to see lines of protesters. As we round the street, I look out my window to see angry shouting between protesters and police. I quickly tell my driver to turn back so we can take a different route. I arrived safely at the guest home where we spend the evening watching protesters line the road up to the embassy.
Thankfully, the next day I make it back to the airport without incident and am now safely home in Qatar where our embargo problems seem quite small in comparison to the regional tension.
Now I light candles and pray for peace.
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