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From the field

Sanaa Natsheh who married a Gazan and lives in the Gaza Strip is separated from her family in East Jerusalem

Sanaa Natsheh, mother of four

I was born in East Jerusalem and have a blue ID card. In 1983 I married my cousin, Nabil Subhi 'Abd a-Nabi a-Natsheh, who is a resident of Gaza. We have four children: the eldest, Muhammad, is twenty, and the youngest, Nour, is eleven. We all live in my husband's house in Gaza City.

Until 1993, I was able to travel without any unusual problems between my husband's home in Gaza and my family's and relatives' homes in Jerusalem. In 1993, following the Oslo Accords, a new policy was instituted for Jerusalem. Whenever I traveled to be with my husband in Gaza, the Israelis would take my ID and hold on to it at the Erez checkpoint. In its place they would give me a permit to stay in Gaza for three months. When I returned to Jerusalem, the Israelis would take back the permit and return my ID to me. Every three months, when my permit to stay in Gaza expired, I had to go to the Erez checkpoint to get it renewed for three more months. I would go to Erez in the morning and wait until the afternoon to get a permit.

This was the situation until 2001. After the intifada broke out, the Israelis changed their policy again, and shortened the duration of the permits to one month. The procedure for obtaining a permit has also become more complicated: I get to the Erez checkpoint at 9:00 A.M., go through an electronic security check device and then through the revolving gate. I am then questioned by police about my family, my husband, and other personal matters. In the past, I was not questioned. Afterwards, they demand a copy of my marriage license and my husband's ID. They also order me to translate my marriage contract from Arabic into Hebrew. This whole procedure takes a long time and is very unpleasant. I then get a permit good for only one month, and have to go back to the Erez checkpoint every month to renew it. When workers are not being allowed to enter Israel, there are no shared taxis to Erez, so I have to take a private cab. The round-trip fare comes to 50 shekels.

My biggest problem is that the Israelis refuse to list my children on to my Israeli ID or to issue them entry permits into Israel. I cannot go visit my family in Jerusalem because I do not dare leave my children in Gaza. I am afraid the Israelis might suddenly impose a closure on the Gaza Strip and I would not be able to get back to my children. I cannot allow this to happen, especially because of my daughter Samah, who is 15-year-old, who is diabetic and has a genetic blood disorder. I haven't gone to visit my family in Jerusalem since 1999, and I miss them very much. If I could get my children registered on my ID, I would go immediately.

Another problem I have encountered is difficulty getting to the Erez checkpoint during Israeli incursions into the Gaza Strip, as well as during Palestinian military actions against Israel. During these periods, Israel restricts movement inside the Gaza Strip. Whenever there has been a curfew en imposed, I do not leave the Gaza Strip and stay at home. In 2003, I could not get to the Erez checkpoint for about five weeks after my permit expired. When I got to the checkpoint to renew it, the Israelis informed me that I had been in Gaza illegally after my permit had expired. They threatened to impose a 6,000 shekel fine on me and demanded that I either pay it or go to Jerusalem. I asked for help from HaMoked: The Center for the Defence of the Individual. In the meantime, the army informed HaMoked that it would not punish families who could not renew their permits because of inability to get to the Erez checkpoint.

I am still in Gaza. My parents have died, but I have twelve brothers and sisters living in East Jerusalem and I miss them. I hope to go to Jerusalem to visit them and to take my children with me, because none of them have met my family. This matter of renewing the permit leaves me with a feeling of being uprooted. It is as if I have no permanent place, not in Gaza and not in Jerusalem./>

Sanaa Yousef 'Abd a-Nabi Natsheh, age 41, married and mother of four, is a resident of East Jerusalem who lives with her husband in Gaza City. Her testimony was taken by Mazen Majdalawi at her home on December 28, 2004.