The trials and tribulations of a 31-year-old mother of three were partly alleviated last week following a petition against Israel’s decision to deny her travel from Gaza to the West Bank. Born and raised in the West Bank, the woman moved to Gaza after marrying a resident of the Strip seven years ago. She hadn’t been out of Gaza or seen her West Bank-based family in five years.
Like so many others in Gaza, her husband cannot find work. Given the deep economic crisis in the Strip, the couple reached the heartbreaking conclusion that their children would be better off if they moved with their mother to her parents’ home in the West Bank, even at the heavy cost of separation from their father.
The woman has applied for permits to visit the West Bank multiple times in the past. Twice, upon reaching Erez Crossing with her eldest daughter, then a toddler, the authorities denied her exit with the child, so she was forced to turn back. Other applications she submitted for a permit to the West Bank were never answered.
In 2018, the woman filed several applications to return to the West Bank with her children. After she received no response, Gisha contacted the Israeli authorities on her behalf; they responded that her application was denied “for security reasons.” In June of this year, after Gisha filed another application for reconsideration, she was summoned for security questioning at Erez Crossing. She showed up for the interview, but the Israeli officials at the crossing refused to proceed on the grounds that “she arrived without her cell phone,” without which, they claimed, “the security screening necessary to complete the processing of the application could not be completed.” The summons, which was sent to Gisha, made no mention of a requirement to bring the cell phone.
When Gisha requested to reschedule the questioning, the Israeli authorities changed their tune suddenly and claimed that her permit was denied “for individual security reasons,” based on “past screening.” It was only after Gisha petitioned the Jerusalem District Court that they agreed to reschedule the questioning and, subsequently, approve her permit.
Almost a year and a half after the processing of her application began, the woman and her three children were finally able to exit the Strip and travel to the West Bank via Erez Crossing. Her struggle to return to her home and reunite with her family, a basic right, shows how Israel uses its control over the Palestinian population registry to restrict travel, first and foremost from Gaza to the West Bank, in violation of international law.