Safe Passage

Family

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Samir-Abu-YusifSamir Abu Yusif

Age 31, Gaza-born,Carpenter,

Was separated from his wife, four children,

and home in the West Bank for more than two years


Gaza-born Samir Abu Yusif moved to the West Bank to study carpentry in 1990, when he was 22 years old. A year later, Samir married Kawthar, a resident of Qalqilya. The couple settled in Qalqilya and had four children together: Bassem (10), Sumaia (8), Nizar (6), and Jumana (3). Samir opened a carpentry workshop and supported his family through his work.

In early 2008, Samir was arrested after he entered Israel for his work, without a permit. During his interrogation, Samir was told that if he collaborated with Israel’s General Security Services he would be allowed to return to his family in the West Bank, but he refused. Despite stating that his place of residence for the past 18 years has been Qalqilya, and asking that he be able to return there to his wife and four children, Samir was removed to the Gaza Strip based solely upon the fact that a Gaza address was listed on his identity card. In Gaza, with the help of Gisha, Samir submitted requests to return to his home and family, but his applications were rejected because they did not meet the criteria determined by Israel for travel from Gaza to the West Bank.

Since being removed to Gaza, for more than two years Samir was cut off from his wife and family. Alongside the emotional distress that this enforced separation has caused the family, it also led to severe financial problems: Samir did not manage to find work in Gaza in order to support his family, his carpentry workshop in the West Bank was closed down, and Kawthar was struggling to meet the household expenses and was getting into debt. In desperation, the family requested that Kawthar and the children be permitted to visit Samir in Gaza. Their application was rejected by Israel on the grounds that transit permits for visits are issued only under “extreme humanitarian circumstances,” which the State claims do not exist in the case of the Abu Yusif family. At the end of December 2009, Gisha petitioned the High Court of Justice asking the State to allow Samir to return to his wife, children, and house in Qalqilya.[1] Following the petition, the State finally acceded, and after several months finally allowed Samir to exit Gaza. On March 22, 2010, after more than two years of separation, Samir returned to his home and reunited with his wife and children.

“Two years have passed since I saw my children. I yearn to touch them, to watch them growing up, to hug them. When I speak to them, I feel happy and a smile comes to my face. But as soon as I hang up the phone, the pain and suffering and sorrow overwhelm me again, and I start to cry. […] It’s very hard for me to be far away from them. Sometimes I avoid talking to my children because I can’t bring myself to hear their voices. I feel like I’m going to collapse. […] We tell my little son Nizar that I went far away to work and earn money and that I’m coming back soon. When I speak to him he always asks me: ‘Dad, when are you coming back? I miss you. You’ve worked long enough. Come home tomorrow.’

[…] The holiday season is the hardest time for me. The festivals are like days of mourning for me. Even here in Gaza, which everyone feels is like a graveyard, everyone is happy on the holidays, and I feel that only me, my wife, and children are not parties to this happiness and joy. On the holiday, I stay alone in my room and cry and scream like a madman. […] What have my children done to deserve such a terrible punishment – to live without a father?”

(Samir Abu Yusif, October 27, 2009)


[1] HCJ 10433/09 Abu Yusif v. The IDF Commander in the West Bank (unpublished).

Mohammed-Abu-Aishah

Mohammed Abu Aishah

Age 21, Separated from his family in

the West Bank for more than three years


Mohammed Abu ‘Aishah was born in Jordan and moved to the West Bank with his family when he was eight years old. Since then, his family has lived in Bethlehem. On their identity cards, Mohammed and his adult brothers are listed as residents of Gaza, even though they never lived there. This is because their mother was originally registered in Gaza, despite not having lived there for decades. In February 2007, Mohammed entered Gaza to visit his brother Ibrahim, who was forcibly removed to Gaza by Israel after being released from administrative detention. Ibrahim has never lived in Gaza and was removed there by Israel based solely on the address listed on his identity card. Since then, more than three years have passed, but Mohammed has not been able to return to his parents, four brothers, three sisters, and his life in the West Bank.

For more than two years, Mohammed had to stay in Gaza against his will. During this period, Mohammed endured the horrors of the Israeli offensive on Gaza, far from his home and family. His rented home collapsed during the bombardment, and he was left dependent on the kindness of strangers for somewhere to sleep. His application to return to his home in the West Bank, which Mohammed submitted via the Palestinian Civil Affairs Committee shortly after he arrived in Gaza, was not granted. Having despaired of his attempts to travel from Gaza to the West Bank via Israel, Mohammed went to Egypt via the Rafah border crossing and from there to Jordan, in the hope that he would be able to get back into the West Bank from there. Since April 2009, Mohammed has been living in Jordan under harsh conditions, since the Israeli authorities refuse to grant his application, submitted by Gisha, to allow him to enter the West Bank via the Allenby Bridge border crossing between Jordan and the West Bank.

“I was so happy to see my brother in Gaza after he was released. I didn’t know that my joy would be so short-lived. I only intended to stay for a short visit and then to return to my home and family in the West Bank. I couldn’t go on living in Gaza. The two-and-a-half years I spent there were like hell for me. So I traveled to Jordan to try and get into the West Bank via the Allenby Bridge, hoping to go back home to my parents, but unfortunately I have not been successful here either.

“I am now 21 years old – a guy with no future, no profession, no livelihood, and no roof over my head. For three years I’ve been busy trying to survive another day. In Jordan, I’m a refugee. I worked for six months in a restaurant in exchange for food and a place to sleep in the kitchen. I worked 12–14 hours a day. I held down the job for half a year but then I couldn’t stand it another day. Now I am homeless and jobless. I wander the streets looking for a place to survive the night.”

Sahar-Abu-Saad_1

Sahar Abu Sa’ad

Age 29, returned from Gaza to the West Bank

with her three children, while their father

remained in Gaza because he was denied exit

In 2000, Sahar, born in the West Bank, married the Gaza-born Jamal, who at the time was undergoing training for the Palestinian police in Jericho. The couple settled in Qalqiliya, but after Jamal went to Gaza that year to register his marriage at the Interior Ministry, he was unable to leave again to return to the West Bank because of the outbreak of the second intifada and Israel’s restrictions on travel from Gaza to the West Bank. Sahar was forced to join him, and their three children were born in Gaza: Firas (8), Sujud (6), and Habib al-Rahman (2).

Sahar’s parents, sisters, brothers, and other family members live in the West Bank. Except for a single week-long visit to the West Bank in 2004, Sahar did not see her family for years, and her parents had not met their youngest grandchild, Habib al-Rahman. Sahar said in late 2008:

“It is a terrible feeling that I cannot go visit my elderly mother, who is 75 and suffers from diabetes and hypertension. I am very worried I will not see her before she dies. I also long to see my eight brothers and two sisters, who all live in the West Bank.”

The couple wanted to return to the West Bank and live with their children on the land they had bought. After prolonged attempts to obtain travel permits, Sahar and her three children, with the assistance of Gisha, managed to move to the West Bank in June 2009. However, Jamal was not allowed to go to the West Bank and he stayed in Gaza by himself. Thus, Sahar’s successful return to live in the place of her birth near her parents forced her to separate from her husband. Sahar believed Jamal would manage to move to the West Bank and that it was only a matter of time, but the long separation, which has lasted almost a year already, is very difficult for the family and is confronting Sahar with new dilemmas:

“The separation between me and my husband is causing problems in our marriage. We are both extremely stressed by the separation. It is very hard for me to deal with the problems and with life in general. The responsibility is tremendous: when I was near Jamal I did not have to worry, because he took all the responsibility for raising and rearing the children. Today I carry the entire burden alone […]. Jamal says he cannot continue living away from me and the children. The children are also constantly asking and begging to see their father. They miss him very much. […] I didn’t expect life to be so hard in the West Bank too, but I still don’t want to go back to the Gaza Strip. Gaza is a beautiful city but the siege made it a dead city and therefore there is no future there for my children, and actually not for women or men either. If the border crossings were open I would never have left the Gaza Strip, but the most basic things for minimal subsistence are unavailable there.”

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