Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Permit to Live

I just spent 3 weeks in a place where human beings are required to have permits to do basic, essential functions. I was in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank. This is a Palestinian town, that like the rest of the West Bank, is under the military occupation of Israel.

Although Jerusalem is 10 short miles away, Palestinians can't go there... without a permit from Israel. They can't go to the doctor, to visit relatives, to worship in churches or mosques (there are Christian and Mulsim Palestinians), or leave from the Tel Aviv airport - without a permit from Israel.

It is surreal. Surreal is actually too pretty a word. It's repulsive to me.

To be 'free' to travel in and out as I was, the contrast was startling. Talking to people who have trouble going to Jerusalem for ANY resaon made me feel bad. Their families have lived there for hundreds of years, and they can't travel 10 miles freely, but I, who hadn't set foot on that land until 10 years ago, can go anywhere I want.

I heard a horrible story of a man who was trying to get a permit to Jerusalem for his elderly wife to go to a doctor. He waited in line all day and at 3pm the Israeli authority granted a 9am - 5pm permit for THAT VERY DAY! There wasn't enough time for him to get his wife to/from the doctor. So, he'd have to come back another day and try again. Unbelievable.

The people I was working with in Ramallah are trying to plan a vacation to the US. The entire family has US passports, but still need a 'permit' from Israel to leave via Tel Aviv's airport. The last time they planned a vacation, they were not granted a permit to leave until just before their flight. They could have just as easliy not gotten the permits and would have missed their flight and incurred change fees on their tickets. They can't plan a simple trip - because it is completely the whim of the ISraeli government whether they can actually leave or not.

It is not acceptable for any group of people to hold that sort of 'authority' over other people. I find it offensive.

I hope the world wakes up to these sorts of injustices and says NO MORE.