This question was thrown into my face by Luai at the beginning of August this year. We were planning for his fifth birthday. We were going to make the party in Nablus where he had been staying in his grandmother’s house while I was looking for a flat and a job in Ramallah. Luai asked for a baby boy doll that cries, snores, breathes, etc. I promised that I would look for it in Ramallah. But he found it in Nablus. And since he knew that I was looking for a flat in Ramallah, he anticipated that we would have to buy it in Ramallah if it needed a permit like he does at the Hawara checkpoint.
This question has become a daily question since we left Gaza and came to the West Bank. Every time Luai wants to ask about going from one area to another he raises the questions: Do we need a permit? Are we allowed to go to this area? Will we face the Israeli soldiers and how many checkpoints will we have to cross?
Luai has 8 cousins from two uncles living in Nablus. Staying there for about one month and a half gave him the opportunity to get more acquainted with his cousins, uncles and grandmother.
Luai now knows the checkpoints very well between Ramallah and Nablus. "When we leave Nablus we first go to Hawara checkpoint, right? We are searched by the soldiers there and then we go by a service taxi to Ramallah, right, Mummy? But after a few minutes we face the Yetzhar checkpoint, isn't that its name, Mummy? We are again checked by the soldiers. Then before entering Ramallah we stop at Atara checkpoint. This one takes a long time, Mummy." On the road to Ramallah he keeps asking when we will arrive at the next checkpoint, making sure that he is pronouncing the name correctly. He raises these questions instead of asking me about the landscape, which is totally different than the one in Gaza. Of course he also shows his knowledge by telling me about the sequence of these checkpoints between Ramallah and Nablus: first Atara, then Yetzhar and at the end there is Hawara. But we might face a "flying checkpoint" on the way between these also. And it's true, because we might find ourselves in front of a portable checkpoint of the Israeli occupation army. So the trip that used to take only a 45 minute drive in the beautiful mountains of the West Bank in the not too distant past might now take hours. I sometimes envy Luai that he does not know those times. When we used to ride in the same car from Ramallah to Nablus.
Since we have moved to Ramallah, his daily inquiries concern our movements and the movements of our belongings. Are we allowed to go to Hebron without a permit from the Israeli army? Do we need a permit to go to Jericho? What about Gaza, when are we going to see Dad, are we still allowed to go there?
I had been worried when I was in Gaza whether Luai and I would be able to leave the Strip after the Hamas coup. Then, when I finally could leave, I became worried about my future in Ramallah, about the flat, the job, Luai's school and mainly worried about Adi, my husband, who was still in Gaza and whom we were trying to get out.
My father asked me once: "Why are you worried? You are used to be obliged to move from one country to another; you are used to changing homes, furniture, schools, and jobs." My immediate reaction was “Yes, I'm used to all that, but this is the first time I have to do it by myself. Every time, my parents were responsible about housing, schools and jobs. This time I'm responsible for my son and my husband. Believe me, this is not easy, especially when you have a child like mine who's watching everything going around him very carefully and trying to understand why he has to hate an army which he sees as the strongest and that's why he should like and not hate.
Now Adi is finally here in Ramallah. We have rented a flat. Luai goes to school and is trying to integrate in the new community; actually, we all are trying. Still, Luai is always asking about the permits for him, for his things and his cousins. He's still asking about the possibility of going to Gaza and meeting his friends and neighbours again. But now I think he's asking just to make sure that he knows the right answer: we need a permit from the Israelis to go there.