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Dear [First Name שם פרטי],

As a teenager, Nabeel (alias) knew that once he turned 18 he would probably never see his father again. He knew that before his eighteenth birthday, he would visit his father one last time. At best, the next time he saw his father, he would be seriously ill or dying. At worst, his next visit would be to his father’s funeral.

This is the harsh reality faced by Palestinian children who have one parent from Gaza and one from Israel or East Jerusalem. Since 2003, Gazans have been barred from moving to Israel or East Jerusalem, even if they are married to Israeli citizens. The only place these “mixed” families can live together is Gaza, but due to the dire situation there, many families choose to live apart. The non-Gazan spouse raises the couple’s children elsewhere, and visits their spouse subject to Israel’s “divided family” procedure, which states that only children under the age of 18 are entitled to visit their parents in Gaza. Once a person turns 18, he or she can only apply to enter Gaza on humanitarian grounds: that is, if their parent is seriously ill or has passed away.

Last month, HaMoked petitioned the High Court of Justice on Nabeel’s behalf, demanding that he be allowed to visit his father in Gaza one last time. Nabeel had submitted a request to enter Gaza together with his mother and siblings in February, a month before his eighteenth birthday. The family’s request went unanswered for several weeks, and then in March Israel froze all movement in and out of Gaza due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The military deleted the request Nabeel and his family had submitted, and by the time they were able to submit a new one, he had already turned 18. HaMoked wrote to the military several times, stressing that Nabeel was unable to visit his father before turning 18 due to an unanticipated global crisis which was completely beyond his control. But the military refused Nabeel’s request, dryly stating that it did not “meet the criteria”.

Following our High Court petition, the military informed us in early August that Nabeel would be allowed to enter Gaza and visit his father one last time. We are currently working on another similar case, where we hope to achieve the same result. But though we are thrilled for Nabeel to be able to see his father again, this victory feels more bitter than sweet.

Nabeel’s story is just one example of the many ways in which Israel’s policies of closure and separation of the Gaza Strip violate the basic rights of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, including their right to family life. HaMoked will continue to support these families and to challenge the wider policies that deny their rights.

Best,

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Jessica Montell
Executive Director of HaMoked

Each year, HaMoked helps some 200 “divided families” reunite through visits to Gaza, representing couples like Nabeel’s parents and their minor children. We help the families navigate Israel’s permit system and provide real-time assistance to coordinate their passage through the Erez crossing. In some cases, we also assist people who wish to visit a first-degree relative in Gaza on “humanitarian grounds”: to attend a family wedding or funeral, or to visit a loved one who is seriously ill.
 
   

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