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One half of a family crisis solved

Israel/Palestine
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Below is an update on the Alsaafin family’s ongoing struggle to be reunited amidst Israel’s Kafkaesque identification and permit system. The “hawiya” which is referenced in this post is an Israeli-issued Palestinian identity card which designates, and restricts, where a person can live. This system severely limits Palestinian freedom of movement, and in many cases keeps families divided.

While rifling through notebooks used from previous semesters to find something worthwhile to submit in the forthcoming English department journal, I came across this rare diary-like entrance, written sometime last June.

Tuesday was to be the “good news” day, according to the lawyer. Instead, he called to say that all work on Palestinian ID’s have frozen because negotiations aren’t on-going. Told Mama from now on we have to be ardent supporters of proximity talks har har. Lawyer said he’ll do his under the table business to see what he can get, REALLY hope that by the time he calls on Friday it will be the news we’re all waiting and dying to here. Otherwise might as well get packing now and develop my mental state of mind for [Amman]. Even with that my eyes will cry themselves hollow at leaving Falasteen, which was supposed to be our final stop on this mini globe-trotting thang. Promises made by Baba already sound like the exact replica of the promises he made again when we came here in the summer of 04. Monty Python–Always look on the bright side of life.

Needless to say, we dumped the lawyer and went back to Gisha who were previously working on the case. Five months later, the breakthrough finally came. The Israeli military, which issues Palestinian IDs finally admitted that my mother’s wrongly issued Gaza ID was a mistake and that her West Bank ID would be dispensed within the next six months. My family breathed again. We could all finally reunite in Amman, where my parents haven’t seen each other for over a year as a result of my dad owning a Gaza ID and therefore unable to live let alone enter the West Bank which was our home for the past 6 years.

March 15th, the seminal day surrounded in such fanfare that was to promulgate officially the end of division between Fateh and Hamas, was a disappointment. Low attendance, no sense of direction, attempted sabotage effects by the PA thugs, the list goes on and on. But that day also had its own personal satisfaction. I spotted my mother near the Manara’s railings and as I made my way toward her, she turned around and excitedly yelled, “GUESS WHAT! I GOT MY HAWIYA!!” I froze. And then much hugging ensued.

This is the moment we’ve all been waiting for, for her to have some sort of legal claim to her right to live in the West Bank. Unfortunately, this still doesn’t deter from the more glaring problem of actually having the freedom to move outside the West Bank (in Palestine) which is still hindered, like the rest of the 3.5 million Palestinians living there. We are indebted to Gisha, and owe them such immense gratitude. Thank you for persevering with us, for resolutely working on my mother’s case, for handling our snappish impatience, and ultimately for winning it in the end. That small note of thanks she published in Al-Quds newspaper doesn’t even express half of our appreciativeness. When the news came to her via phone call, my mother had to hang up because she was at a complete loss for words.

A legal resident of the West Bank! Mama hasn’t even been to the outskirts of Ramallah city for fear on encountering a flying checkpoint, even after the IDF admitted the mistake they had made in the address on her ID back in November. How absurd that we had to suffer through this ordeal, when she is originally from Ramallah’s twin city Al-Bireh! But it’s all part and parcel of being Palestinian nowadays.

Next, we will try to work on my father and older brother’s case. It doesn’t look too promising since they were both born in Khan Younis, but without hope we wouldn’t be where we are today. If my dad can’t be permitted to enter the West Bank then we have no other choice but to pack up in the summer and move to Amman, and that will be the moment of victory for the Zionists–succeeding in uprooting another Palestinian family.

Linah Alsaafin is a student at Birzeit University in the West Bank, where she is studying English Literature. She’s been living in Ramallah, West Bank since 2004, and despite being only 50 miles away from her grandparents and uncles in the Gaza Strip, she hasn’t seen them since 2005. Alsaafin was born in Cardiff, Wales, and was raised in England, the United States, and Palestine.

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