Written by Shadi Butthish, Intake Coordinator at Gisha
We can’t help Hala. We wish we could. Her case isn’t exceptionally humanitarian enough. In fact, she’s no exception at all. Nowadays, there’s nothing exceptional about a young Palestinian who hasn’t seen her family in 13 years. It’s just the way it is.
Hala is 33 years old. She was born in the Gaza Strip. Her parents and siblings moved to the West Bank in 2000 and managed to change their address in the population registry before Israel stopped updating addresses that same year. When her family moved to the West Bank, Hala was already married. She stayed in the Gaza Strip and started a family. She didn’t know then that she would get divorced in 2010. She also didn’t know that Israel would make it increasingly more difficult and then nearly impossible for Palestinians to travel between Gaza and the West Bank.
Hala hasn’t seen her family since 2000. Over the course of these 13 years, her parents had other children, siblings she has never met. After her divorce, Hala decided she wanted to leave Gaza, where she no longer has any close relatives, and move back in with her parents. But Hala’s wishes are not compatible with Israeli policy, which prohibits, almost entirely, Palestinians whose registered address is in Gaza from moving to the West Bank. Israeli officials say that such restrictions are part of the “separation policy”, which restricts travel from Gaza to the West Bank, even where no individual security claims are raised.
And so, for the past three years, Hala has been making requests to move to the West Bank, without success. She hasn’t even been able to go to the West Bank for a week-long visit as the security establishment, implementing the “separation policy”, is apparently concerned that if Hala goes to the West Bank, she won’t return to Gaza after her visit permit expires. So she remains in Gaza, alone, without the company of her brothers and sisters and without her parents’ support.
Hala’s case isn’t exceptional. It’s also not the worst or most tragic case we’ve come across. It’s one of many similar cases, a human story of people who are denied the most basic possibility to see their family, and benefit from their love and support. We can’t help Hala. Israel’s policy regarding settlement by Palestinians in the West Bank is so rigid that we are unable to help her and others in her situation. But you should still know Hala, because she is the face this policy forgets. She pays the price and she deserves better than this.