What does it take to keep a family together? A loving home, supportive relatives, and permission from Israel. Such is the case for Rula, a 23-year-old Palestinian with Israeli citizenship who has lived in Gaza since 2011. Rula has been trying to get back to Gaza since February, where her husband and 1.5-year-old child are waiting for her. 

Born to a mother who has Israeli citizenship and a father registered as a resident of Gaza, Rula is a member of what Israel calls a ‘split family.’ The term refers to Palestinian couples where one spouse is a citizen or resident of Israel while the other is not. According to Israeli law, citizens of Israel are barred from entering Gaza and therefore, Palestinians with Israeli citizenship must obtain Israeli permits not only to enter the Strip but also to live there. Israel’s policy prevents the spouse who is a Gaza resident from living in Israel with their partner who has citizenship.  

Rula moved with her mother and siblings from Israel to Gaza when she was a child and has lived there ever since. In early 2023, she entered Israel to visit family members. At the end of her visit, Rula had to apply for a ‘split family permit’ in order to go back to her home, partner and child in Gaza.   

When Gisha contacted the Israeli Coordination and Liaison Administration (CLA) on her behalf, they denied Rula a permit to return to the Strip, claiming that she had been living in Gaza “without a permit and contrary to [Israeli] policy” since she was 16.  

We appealed this decision in early April, at which point the Israeli authorities responded that Rula will only be allowed to reunite with her husband and baby on one condition: If she ever returns to Israel in the future, which she is entitled to do as a citizen, she will not be allowed to re-enter Gaza unless she meets one of the few, narrow criteria for “humanitarian and exceptional” travel. In other words, Rula is being forced to choose between two impossible options: Go back and effectively give up her rights as an Israeli citizen and never see her extended family again or give up her right to be with her husband and child.  

This week, we filed an urgent petition with Israel’s High Court on Rula’s behalf, demanding she be allowed to return to Gaza immediately without forgoing her right to family life or her future freedom to travel. A date for a hearing has yet to be set. In the meantime, Israel is keeping another parent away from her child for 2.5 months and counting.