I live in 'Attil, which is in Tulkarm District. I am married, have two children, and work as director of the research department in the Palestinian Finance Ministry in Tulkarm. In 1994, when I was living in Saudi Arabia , I married Iman Safi. In 1995, we had a son and named him Nidal. Our second son was born in 1996, and we named him 'Abd a-Rahman. Both children were born in Saudi Arabia . My wife is from a Palestinian family, but she was born in Jordan and holds Jordanian citizenship. She does not hold Palestinian residency or a West Bank identity card. I have a Palestinian identity card.
In the summer of 1997, I finished my work in Saudi Arabia and went to Jordan with my wife and two sons' I couldn't get Jordanian citizenship or work in Jordan , so I couldn't remain there. I came back to my hometown, to 'Attil, to work and provide for my family. I was luck and got the job I work at today. Since then, I have been detached from my wife and children, who are in Jordan .
The first time that I submitted a request for family unification was on 13 August 1997, when I was already living in the West Bank . I went to the Palestinian Interior Ministry once a week on average to check on my request.
Until June 1999, I traveled to Jordan once every two weeks, for a day or two, to visit my family' On 7 June 1999, my wife and children came to visit me in the West Bank after I managed to get visitor's permits for them from the Civil Administration. The permits were valid for three months and could be extended for another four months. While they were here, I recorded the children in my identity card and they received residency status and were entitled to live in the West Bank . Before the three months ended, I went to the Interior Ministry's office in Tulkarm and requested an extension to my wife's visitor's permit. I was given the extension and my wife remained with the children in the West Bank until December. Iman and the children returned to Jordan before the permit expired because I knew that the Civil Administration would not issue a new visitor's permit to somebody whose permit had expired. Twenty-three days after Iman and the children left, I filed a request for another visitor's permit and received it from the Palestinian Civil Administration. My wife and children returned to the West Bank in January 2000 and lived with me in 'Attil for six months. They again left the West Bank in 18 June 2000. They went to my wife's parents in Saudi Arabia .
Since the al-Aqsa Intifada began, the Israeli authorities have not issued visitor's permits... Now I am far from my wife and children. They need me, and I need to be with them, to take care of them and raise them. I visit them in Jordan every three months or so, for two weeks. A two-week visit costs me about 1,000 dinars, which is 6,000 shekels. This includes the travel, the gifts and expenses on the children, when I take them out. I feel that I have to compensate for being so far from them, though it isn't my fault. Other than my household expenses in 'Attil, I pay 150 dinars (900 shekels) a month rent for Iman in Jordan . I earn only 3,400 shekels a month.
The children and my wife also suffer. The children miss me and want to feel that they have a father, like the rest of the kids. When I visit them and take them to school, they joyfully introduce me to their friends, as if to prove that they have a father, like the others. They latch on to me all the time. When I have to go back to the West Bank , they ask me not to go, and to stay with them, and they cry. It hurts a lot when this happens. I can't stay and live in Jordan because I have Palestinian citizenship, which means that I can't work there.
My situation is one of never-ending suffering. In 2002, Iman had to be operated on at the Jordanian university hospital, and I wasn't there to care for her. Procedures on the Jordanian and Israeli sides made it impossible to go. Only one bus a day goes from Israel to Jordan . In August 2004, my son 'Abd a-Rahman, who was eight years old at the time, contracted meningitis, an often fatal illness. He was hospitalized for ten days. When I learned he was ill, it took me three days to get a document indicating I was not prevented from entering Jordan , and couldn't leave until the fourth day. Only somebody who has undergone such suffering can understand what I went through at that time. The medical costs for the treatment were high: the hospitalization cost 3,500 dinars (about 22,000 shekels), because my children are registered as residents of the West Bank, so they are not entitled to state health insurance in Jordan.
The same holds true for schooling. Palestinian students cannot study in state schools, but only in private schools. I pay 1,000 dinars a year for my two sons' schooling. I don't know how long this suffering will continue, this separation from my family, and not being allowed to live together in dignity. This situation also costs me a lot, and I am more than 7,000 dinars in debt.
Mwafaq 'Abd al-Qader Sharif Daqa, married and father of two, is a clerk in the Palestinian Authority and a resident of 'Atil in Tulkarm district. His testimony was given to 'Abd al-Karim Sa'adi at the witness's house on 8 February 2005.