Illustrated by Ilana Zeffren
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The graphics depict part of the account given by Asmaa Zaghlul. Asmaa, a native of the Gaza Strip, married a resident of the West Bank, and works at a family conflict resolution center. She and her husband are one of many mixed couples who face a host of obstacles imposed by Israel. Sometimes, even the bride herself is not allowed into the West Bank. When the bride is allowed in, Israel then permits only her parents – at times, only one parent – to attend the wedding. Immediately afterwards, the parents, and sometimes also the bride, are obliged return to Gaza.
Procedure makes it almost impossible for Gazans to move their registered address to the West Bank, not even after marrying a West Bank resident. As a result, Asmaa and others like her are considered illegal aliens in their homes. They fear leaving their husband and children to visit their families of origin in Gaza, as they will likely not be allowed to return. They also live in constant fear of being caught and sent back to Gaza, severing them from their new family.
In 2011, as part of a declared diplomatic gesture of goodwill towards the Palestinian Authority, Israel finally registered some of these women as West Bank residents. However, regulations still bar them almost entirely from visiting Gaza: permits are issued only in the rare instances of the death, illness or wedding of a first-degree relative.
Until Egypt closed Rafah Crossing in June 2013, women whose registered address was in the West Bank, could circumvent Israeli procedure and reach Gaza via Jordan and Egypt, albeit undergoing a costly and exhausting journey. Now, they are entirely cut off from their families in Gaza.
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Ilana Zeffren is a comics artist and graphic designer. She is the mother of Rafi and Spaghetti, two cats who have a regular weekly feature in the paper, and the author of the graphic novel Pink Story.