Daily Life, and the Occupation

The author of this article is a 22 year old Christian Palestinian author. She is originally from Jerusalem but has lived in Jordan and the United States most of her life. She is now back in Jerusalem, after finishing her university education, and is working in a Christian organization.

Whenever the topic of Israeli occupation comes up, Palestinians usually talk about the 1967 borders, prisoner exchange, the land confiscations, the settlements, the separation wall, etc. And although these are all very important issues to discuss, I would like to talk about the day to day, mundane issues that a Palestinian Christian young women like me faces as a direct result of the occupation.

Being born in Jerusalem I was given a Jerusalem ID number, which meant that I have the potential to be a resident of Jerusalem, once I’m over 16 years old and can apply for an ID resident card. However, there was a little bump in the road between my day of birth and the day I turned 16. It was more like a tragedy that my family went through when I lost my mother to cancer at age 6. My father was left to raise three kids on his own, and soon decided to get remarried. My step-mother was Jordanian, and lived on the other side of the River. Thus, my siblings and I made a move there. My father on the other hand kept traveling between Jerusalem and Amman for work, and would bring us with him frequently so we wouldn’t lose our Jerusalem ID numbers. Years passed, and I turned 16. For every Palestinian living in Jerusalem, their sweet sixteenth isn’t usually sweet at all, since they are mandated to start holding the dreaded ID that they have to show at every checkpoint. In my case however, I wasn’t able to get an ID, since I hadn’t lived in Jerusalem for a few years, because of the move we made. The man at the Interior Ministry office, where I stood in queue for hours upon hours to submit my application that day, assured me that if I did return to live in Jerusalem, I would be able to reapply for an ID. The problem was that I had been planning on starting my first year of college in a few months in the States, and would not be back for another 4 years. So during those 4 years the only form of connection I had to Jerusalem was an “Israeli reentry visa” on my American passport, giving me permission to enter Jerusalem – my hometown – as a tourist!

During my time in America, I met this young Russian Jewish girl who was my age, working in the same café. Her name was Adah, and Adah had just gotten back from Israel on a “Birth Right trip”, where she spent 2 months, traveling and enjoying herself in Israel – all expenses paid. She was expressing how much she loved Israel, and that she wanted to move there someday. I asked her if she had any family there, and she said she didn’t, but since she’s Jewish she can make Aliyah and be given full citizenship to Israel anyday. Talking to her, made me so sad to think that my Palestinian relatives living back home in the West Bank, whose family has been in the land for hundreds of years is not allowed entry into Jerusalem, while this Russian Jewish girl living in Brooklyn, who has absolutely no connection to the land was able to travel there freely, and offered to live there permanently if she wishes, only because of her ethnicity.

After graduating college, I decided to move back to Jerusalem in order to gain my Jerusalem ID. I wanted to improve my identity from being a tourist to a resident of Jerusalem. The question was, where do I live? My parents live in Amman, and all of my relatives live in the West Bank. Living on my own in Jerusalem would be both expensive and culturally unacceptable, since I am an unmarried young woman. My older sister was facing a similar situation, as she recently got married to a man from the West Bank. Her dilemma was even more difficult because it involved her spouse. She had the option of either living with her husband in the West Bank, since he cannot enter Jerusalem without a permit, and it is rarely given to him. That meant risking losing her ID, and ultimately her freedom to enter into Jerusalem, where she works. The other option was to live physically separated from her husband, and only seeing him a few days a week. Her living in Jerusalem and him living in the West Bank until the Israeli government decides to issue him a permanent permit; which even if he does get, does not allow him to drive there for example, or rent/own property.

The only solution we could think of, which is far from ideal, was renting an apartment in Jerusalem under my sister’s and my name, but not living there full-time. Living mostly in the West Bank, with my family, and her husband, but frequently sleeping at the house in Jerusalem to prove we live there. This option was the only one that made some sense to us, however, the downfall of this, is that on any day a worker from the Israeli insurance company could walk into our house, not find us there, and report that we do not actually live in the house, and cause us to lose our IDs. Another big disadvantage is that we are paying rent for two houses, one in Jerusalem and one in the West Bank, all to be able to function in an apartheid State like Israel.

This is just a taste of the struggle that so many Palestinians face on a day to day basis. Unfortunately, my family’s dilemma is a blessing to other Palestinians who have lost their homes, farms, and many more as a result of this occupation.

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