How long does it take an Israeli citizen living in the Gaza Strip to visit Israel and return to the Strip?
“The Minister of the Interior of the State of Israel
Hereby requests all those whom it may concern
To allow the bearer of this passport
To pass freely without let or hindrance
And to afford the bearer such protection and assistance
As may be necessary”
(The above text appears on every Israeli passport)
After a long and traumatic bureaucratic obstacle course, N. and her children eventually managed to exit Gaza, visit her family, and return to the Strip. In 1992, N., an Israeli citizen born in Ramle, married a Palestinian resident of the Gaza Strip and moved to the Strip to live with her husband. The couple have lived in Gaza for 20 years and are the parents of six-year-old twins. N. has not seen her family since 2004. In May 2011, N. contacted Gisha and asked for assistance in order to enter Israel, together with her children, so that they could meet her family for the first time.
As an Israeli citizen, N. does not require a permit in order to enter Israel. The same is true of her children, who are Israeli citizens since they were born to an Israeli mother, even if they have not yet been registered in the Israeli Population Registry. Despite this, when N. contacted the Gaza DCO in order to coordinate her family’s passage, she discovered that the Israeli authorities consider her children to be Palestinian. N. was required to submit an application for a permit for her children through the Palestinian Civil Affairs Committee. The children received permits enabling them to spend just two weeks in Israel.
After arriving in Israel, N. contacted the population registry in order to arrange her children’s status. Despite the fact that her children were entitled to Israeli citizenship, as noted, the authorities presented N. with Kafkaesque obstacles. For example, an official demanded that N. provide a document confirming that she had crossed Erez Crossing and entered Israel, since her entry did not appear in the computer. The official raised this demand despite the fact that N. was sitting in front of her in her office – in Israel, naturally. N. was also asked to submit a letter from her husband waiving his rights regarding his children in order to enable their registration in the Israeli Population Registry. After consulting with Gisha, N. submitted a document stating that the registration of the children in the registry was being undertaken with the father’s knowledge, but that this did not imply waiver of paternity.
N. was obliged to hire the services of a private attorney in order to navigate the bureaucratic maze. After the attorney intervened, the Ministry of the Interior agreed to register the two children as Israeli citizens, and issued N. and her children Israeli passports.
After spending two months with N.’s family, N. wished to return with her children to her home and her husband in the Gaza Strip. Accordingly, at the end of July she forwarded the necessary documents to the Gaza DCO. After N. was unable to confirm by telephone that the documents had been received, she again contacted Gisha. On August 11, 2011, Gisha submitted N.’s application to the Gaza DCO. Despite numerous attempts to expedite the processing of her request, the application was only authorized on September 12, 2011 – a month after it was submitted – despite the fact that the application involved the passage of Israeli citizens.
The family had hoped to celebrate Id al-Fitr together in Gaza, but was unable to do so. The children, who were excited about beginning first grade, were forced to miss the festive first day of school. They began school two weeks later, after the term was already underway.