Petition to the Tel Aviv District Court to allow Abed-Algani Alboom to travel to his studies at the Arava Institute, Petition 45269-08-10
In August 2010, as a result of a petition filed by Gisha, the state granted Mr. Abed-Algani Alboom, a Palestinian resident of Ramallah, a permit to stay in Israel, including overnight, so that he could participate in a four-month continuing education program at the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies.
Mr. Alboom is 32 years old with a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Birzeit University. He works as an administrative and financial manager on projects for several international organizations in the Palestinian territory administered by the Palestinian Authority including the United Nations and USAID. Mr. Alboom enrolled in a continuing education program at the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies after years of work developing regional infrastructure, hoping to expand his knowledge on the subject. The Arava Institute, located in Kibbutz Ketora (approximately 50 kilometers north of Eilat) is the premier environmental teaching and research program in the Middle East preparing future Arab and Jewish leaders to cooperatively solve the region’s environmental challenges. The institute annually accepts a dozen Palestinian residents of the West Bank to continuing education programs that last about four months. Most of them receive permits to enter and stay in Israel for the duration of the program.
Mr. Alboom was accepted to the program but discovered, much to his dismay, that the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) had denied the Arava Institute’s request for his travel permit citing “An Objection by the Security Forces” – an objection that was not elaborated on or fully explained.
Mr. Alboom’s life work has been dedicated to the development and the progress of his society. He has never been involved in any act of aggression against the State of Israel. He sought to discover the reason for the security objection and to take action in order to have it removed. Mr. Alboom and the Arava Institute contacted Gisha for assistance in this matter.
On April 6, 2010 Gisha petitioned the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories on Mr. Alboom’s behalf asking that the security objection holding up his travel permit be removed. Their response was received on May 26, 2010. In it, COGAT approved Mr. Alboom’s request to enter Israel to participate in the continuing education program at the Arava Institute. The approved permit, however, was limited to daytime hours only.
In order for Mr. Alboom to travel from his home in Ramallah to the Arava Institute he needs to pass two checkpoints and change buses three times. The trip takes at least five and a half hours. The same on the way back home. The total travel time adds up to at least 11 hours. These daily permits would not enable Mr. Alboom to participate in the program and constitute, for all intents and purposes, a denial of his request.
On June 28, 2010 Gisha petitioned COGAT again asking them to reconsider their decision to only allow Mr. Alboom daily permits into Israel. COGAT refused to take responsibility, passing it instead to the General Security Services, who are not authorized to allow or deny any travel permits into Israel.
In light of this response the only remaining course of action was to seek the court’s assistance. On August 25, 2010 Gisha filed a petition on behalf of Mr. Alboom and the Arava Institute in the Tel Aviv District Court in which we emphasized that even though the security restrictions had been removed and daily travel permits had been granted to Mr. Alboom to participate in the program, that de facto granting daily travel permits made it impossible for Mr. Alboom to attend the program and therefore violated his right to an education and freedom to choose his profession. Israel was unjustifiably ignoring its obligations towards Mr. Alboom, a protected resident of territory under its sovereignty. The District Court was asked to direct the state to grant Mr. Alboom a travel permit that included overnight stays for the entire duration of the program at the Arava Institute.
After filing the petition, but before any hearings took place, the state agreed to grant Mr. Alboom three-month permits that included overnight stays, but conditioned its approval on Mr. Alboom signing an agreement that he would not harm Israel’s security as well as submitting a financial deposit as collateral. The agreement was afforded the same legal status as a court verdict. Since the program at Arava was already underway, the institute agreed to admit Mr. Alboom to the Spring 2011 program.