Qalandiya - A Palestinian family from the United States with special needs facing the occupation bureaucracy

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Tamar Fleishman
משפחה פלשתינית מארה"ב עם צרכים מיוחדים

Five Palestinian family members sat waiting at the Civil Administration’s District Coordination Offices.

The mother was born in East Jerusalem and emigrated to the US years ago, where her four children were born, who are now grown up – one son and three daughters. One daughter is completely paralyzed, only her head and hands function and she moves around in an electric wheelchair.

They had two requests:

  1. To be permitted to return through Ben Gurion Airport (Israel, rather than through Jordan, the only airport accessible to Palestinians) because the disabled daughter needs help and constant care.
  2. To be permitted to visit their grandmother in East Jerusalem, and if they are already there, do a bit of travel in Israel itself.

The five were waiting patiently for all who had arrived before them to be dealt with.

They are not familiar with the local custom of cutting in line with “I just want to ask something”. The brother and three sisters do not speak Arabic, only English, and the mother’s Arabic isn’t what it used to be.

When their turn came, and the time was 4 p.m. a patient, friendly officer heard them out, took their documents, left to inquire, came back and said he was still looking into it. At 5 p.m. the verdict arrived: the mother and the paralyzed sister are permitted to leave via Ben Gurion Airport. The others are not.

In between, the officers discovered with the Israeli army computer that the brother and sisters are of Palestinian descent.

  • But the mother as accompanier of the disabled sister would not be sufficient, much help is needed.
  • Too late to pursue this now. Come back tomorrow. We’ll see what we can do.
  • What about visiting grandma?
  • Tomorrow. There’s no longer anyone to take care of this.

Sure. They’ll come tomorrow. Waste another day, for the third time, in the hold of the occupation bureaucracy (they had already been at the Bet El DCO another day, from where they were sent to Qalandiya).

All that is left now is to exit the DCO. For this requires going up two stairways and going down two, and how is the wheelchair to be managed? There’s a gate, who will open it? Time passed until a security guard came along from the other side.

  • Please open the gate for the disabled young woman.
  • Leave me with her and go along. I’ll take care of it.
  • We’re not leaving.
  • If that’s what you want, then I won’t open. As far as I’m concerned you an wait here until tomorrow.
אמא ובתה הנכה לפני השער הסגור

He said this and left. More time passed.

Only after climbing  up and down the stairs and reaching the inspection area and raising a racket, did someone come along to open the gate for the wheelchair and the young woman sitting in it.

  • Do you have any advice for us, to get what we request? Asked me Samantha, the youngest sister.
  • Not to be Palestinians. The rest will take care of itself.