Five years of solitude

The address listed in a Palestinian’s ID card can decide her fate. This one line, the address, split the K. family apart and prevented them from living together in the same place. All members of the family, mother, father and six children, were born in the Gaza Strip. When the closure on the Strip was tightened in 2007, the father, Mr. K., left for the West Bank in search of work.

Since the security establishment does not allow Palestinians who are originally from Gaza to settle in the West Bank as a matter of policy, Mr. K. received a temporary permit to travel to the West Bank. However, as he had to provide for his family, he chose to remain there.  K.’s wife and children did not receive a permit to travel to the West Bank and were forced to remain in Gaza.

K. did not see his family in the Gaza Strip for five years. The family did not receive permits to travel to the West Bank and K. did not dare go to Gaza for fear he would not be allowed to leave again.

On February 4, 2011, Israel agreed to change the addresses of 5,000 Palestinians who live in the West Bank in a gesture brokered by Tony Blair, the Quartet’s envoy to the region. K. contacted the Palestinian Authority with a request to have his address changed to the West Bank. He asked for the same for his wife and eldest daughter, who was 17 years old and already had her own ID card. In August 2011, K. and his wife were told that their application had been approved, but that Israel had not approved their daughter’s application.

In early January 2011, Mrs. K. submitted an application to the Palestinian Civilian Affairs Committee in Gaza asking to move to the West Bank, her new address, along with her minor children and her eldest daughter. No response was received from the Israeli authorities by the end of January, at which point the K. family requested Gisha’s help. Gisha contacted the Israeli army's Gaza District Coordination Office. After no response was received for six weeks, we contacted the State Attorney’s Office in an effort to avoid having to take legal action, and the Gaza DCO finally responded to our request. Mrs. K. and several other women in similar circumstances were summoned to Erez Crossing for a conversation to clarify factual information. We advised the women not to go and informed the Gaza DCO that as counsel for some of them, we would be happy to provide further details about their cases if necessary.

In mid-April, three weeks after Gisha sent this letter, the Gaza DCO sent a written response notifying that the K. family had been approved for travel to the West Bank, including the eldest daughter, and that her address would be changed to the West Bank as well. In May, the family moved from Gaza to the West Bank and reunited after being separated for five years.