Counting for the new year:

END the Occupation of Palestine NOW.

Break the Siege of Gaza

Break the Siege of Gaza
The siege is a genocide and don't say you didn't know

Monday, December 4, 2006

As soon as I get a permit I will come back to you

"As soon as I get a permit I will come back to you, next time I'll let dad travel alone, and I will stay with you" Luai tells me this every time I talk to him on the phone. He is anxiously waiting for the permit to come back home. He's been traveling between Nablus, Amman, Damascus and again Amman. Next week he will be going to Nablus again to wait for the permit to return to Gaza.

If others hear that a four years old child is traveling within three countries in one summer, they would envy him thinking: what a lucky child with rich parents?. I would too, but they wouldn't had they known that this is the only way that allows him to meet his grandparents, uncles, cousins and aunts. And that it is so because they are not allowed to meet in their homeland, or in any other country near, by all in one place, because they are Palestinian refugees.

My husband and his family are refugees from Jafa, who have lived in Nablus city since 1948. Of course my husband "Adi" is not that old, he was born in Nablus 1963.
Adi has three brothers and two sisters, he is the youngest. The two sisters are married and live with their families in Amman. The oldest sister, Faten still has her Nabulsi Identity Card and is keen on issuing her children's Nabulsi Identity Cards too; as soon as they reach 15 years old, in spite of the fact that they live in Amman. All her children were born in Kuwait where she was living till the first Gulf War in 1990. The other sister, Abeer lost the right to her Nabulsi Identity Cards years ago when she got married to a relative in Jordan. Abeer has three kids, but like their mother, they are not allowed into the West Bank, because they don’t have Identity Cards and have not issued neither permits nor visas from the Israeli embassy in Amman for more than six years now. Two of Abeer's children were born in Baghdad, which she left to Amman in 1989, where the third child was born.

Adi's brother, Riyad has also three kids, two were born in the States and one was born in Saudi Arabia. Riyad lost his Identity Card in the mid 70s, when he was active with the PLO, left Nablus and moved between several countries: Egypt, Jordan, USA and finally Suadi Arabia. He has an American passport, which allows him to visit his homeland but no without difficulties.

Mousa, Adi's second brother, never left Nablus, he has four kids, all born in Nablus and live there. He owns a laundry shop, but because of the bad economic situation since the first Intifada, it is not bringing any income to the family. Adi's mother lives in Nablus with Mousa and his family in the same house. She has preserved her Identity Card.

Ahmed the last brother, lost his Identity Card when he was active in the PLO in the 80s, got married to his cousin in Amman and had four kids. He decided to risk it in 1997 and come to Nablus as a visitor with his family to apply for an Identity Card, which neither he nor his family has till now. So they can move no where outside the country, he and the mother cannot even move oustside Nablus city because of the checkpoints on the city boarders.

Adi, still has his Identity Card because he has been keen all the time while he was studying abroad to renew it and renew his traveling permits by the occupation authorities.
Now let me tell you about my family: my parents are both Palestinian refugees who had lived in Syria, and like most of the refugees, never had the chance to visit Palestine since 1948. Me and my two sisters were born in Syria. The whole family always had Syrian Travel Document for Palestinian Refugees and refugees Identity Cards. My youngest sister Laila, lives in Damascus and is married to a Syrian, so she has a Syrian passport now, which allows her to move more easily inside the Arab world; unlike my mom, who also lives in Syria, but still has a refugee document so she is not allowed to visit most of the Arab countries.

Lina, my other sister, is married to an American and has two kids, they all have American passports. This is how she and her husband could come to Ramallah to live and work in 2002. They stayed their till it became difficult for them to obtain the three months tourist visa issued by the Israelis to foreigners staying in Israel and the occupied territories. This is a new procedure implemented by the occupation authority to forbid foreigners from Palestinian origin to come to Palestine.

My father lives in Vienna, for so many reasons, none of which is to do with him being rich or fond of the quiet life in Vienna. He is married to an American. Since 1996 he has a Palestinian Authority Travel Document Identity Card. He has been allowed to visit the occupied territories since 1996. But he has not been allowed to visit Israel, so whenever he comes to Gaza (Asia) and wants to visit the West Bank, he has to go back to Egypt (Africa), travel by plane to Amman (Asia), and go to the West Bank (Asia) through the Ellenby Bridge.

I am, the only daughter married to a Palestinian, because of that I could obtain a family reunification approval from the occupation authorities which allowed me to come and live in Palestine with my husband in 1994 (? Years after having applied for it!). I now live with Adi and Luai in Gaza.

People would say: "wow, what a rich life these families have, the children have the chance to visit so many countries and to be introduced to so many cultures" this would have been true, were the families not Palestinians-not allowed to move and meet freely. They can never meet all members of the families in one place, let's say the grandparents house even once in a life time. Because if one is allowed in one country, the other is not.

That's why, Luai has to travel three areas to meat his closest family members. He is lucky that his grandfather could till this year come to Gaza from Vienna, at least once a year. But this year, it seems that he won't be able to do so, Luai will have to travel to Vienna to see his grandfather and his wife.

I know you still say we are lucky, well when you know that we are not rich, that most of the times one of us is out of work, and that we always have to save money not for the future, but to afford the costs of such trips at least once every two years. Then you will no longer say we are lucky.

Are we the only case? Of course not, I mentioned a sample of a typical Palestinian family. I talked only about our small extended family, I didn't mention Adi's uncles and aunts (some of them are still living in Israel but we couldn't see them for years now), or his cousins. I didn't talk about my aunts and uncles and their children. So it is a typical Palestinian family. I can take any other Palestinian family and find the same situation.

It is easy when we talk about the difficulties of seeing my sister in the USA or my brother-in-law in Saudi Arabia, but not to be able to see my mother-in-law, who lives in Nablus-two hours away from Gaza, it's just too much!

Well, thanks to the technology now, I can see my mother and sisters through the internet. I'm doing that every time I have electricity at home. My son, husband and family in Damascus even celebrated my birthday this way, they prepared the cakes and candles and my son sang happy birthday for me while I was watching him and listening to him through internet linked camera and microphone.
It's still very hard, although he is enjoying the experience: he visited the cinema, theater and circus for the first time in his life; he is sleeping without hearing the sounds of the F16s and helicopters. But at the same time he is still waiting for the permit from the Israeli Army to let him come back to his mum. Today when I spoke to him, he said: "do you know which of the houses I've been to is the most beautiful?," "which?" I asked expecting to him to mention one of his aunts houses, "our house in Gaza," he replied

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