Worries and wishes for my first grandchild in Jerusalem

Daoud Kuttab

By : Daoud Kuttab

This week, I became a grandfather.

My eldest daughter gave birth to a baby girl in Jerusalem and baby and mother are healthy and fine.

This piece of good news did not come so easily, emotionally or politically, however.

For weeks, we have been hearing, seeing and talking to people about the children in Gaza losing their lives not because of natural causes, to accidents or earthquakes, but because of a manmade gigantic disaster that in the end was probably aimed at little more than improving some politicians’ standings in upcoming elections.

Sure, there is plenty of talk and pontification about the reasons for the war on Gaza, about some “moral army” that supposedly takes precautions to prevent civilian deaths, and the blame game that considers every Palestinian in Gaza a member of the Hamas movement.

Discriminatory bureaucratic problems

In the weeks leading to the birth of my first grandchild, we went through discriminatory bureaucratic problems that no expecting couple should have to go through.

In the weeks leading to the birth of my first grandchild, we went through discriminatory bureaucratic problems that no expecting couple should have to go through

Daoud Kuttab

My daughter has an Israeli residency in Jerusalem. When Israel occupied the remaining Palestinian and Arab territory, it unilaterally passed Israeli law on East Jerusalem, giving its residents (including my family) permanent residency, but not citizenship.

This residency, however, can be lost if the center of any Palestinian Jerusalemite’s life ceases to be Jerusalem.

So if a Jerusalemite lives outside Israel for a period of time, he loses his right to his own birthplace. Many Jerusalemites now can only come to their city as tourists.

To protect this right, my daughter who married a young man from nearby Beit Jala held two weddings, one in the West Bank and one in Jerusalem, the latter to cement her rights in the holy city.

My daughter and son-in-law face a housing problem. If they live outside Jerusalem, say in Bethlehem, she risks losing her permanent residency right in Jerusalem. However, if they live in Jerusalem, her husband cannot live with her unless he gets a permit, something that is not always given even in the case of a married couple.

In bizarre ruling decades ago, the Israeli high court ruled that as a married couple, living together is not a human right, so my daughter lives in Jerusalem and her husband has to regularly try to get a permit to come to Jerusalem.

During Christmas and Easter, my son-in-law is able to stay with my daughter because the Israelis give most Palestinian Christians permits to visit Jerusalem for the religious holidays. But when he does not have a permit, he stays with his family in Beit Jala.

Another discriminatory problem

Our daughter faced another discriminatory problem. Even though she teaches in Jerusalem and pays taxes and social security, the hospital she was planning to give birth in, Hadassah, was unable until the last moment to approve her national insurance coverage.

The delivery of Israelis and Jerusalemites who pay national insurance are automatically covered. However, if one of the parents is not from Israel or Jerusalem, the national insurance agents must approve the cost.

To do, so Israeli agents make unexpected checks to ensure that the East Jerusalemite claiming to be covered is actually living in Jerusalem.

To my understanding, agents often come in the early morning hours and even check to make sure that the bed is warm and that the refrigerator is being used, to be sure that the person is actually living in the house.

The agents came one morning when my daughter was in her fifth month of pregnancy, but it had not been decided that the birth would be covered until a few weeks before she gave birth.

She was told that if the approval is not given in time, she will have to pay and, hopefully, would get paid back once the approval arrives.

Our granddaughter does not automatically get an ID because the father is from the West Bank.

Even though she just gave birth, my daughter, needs to go to the often-overcrowded single East Jerusalem interior ministry office to apply for residency for the newborn.

It normally takes one to three months for the paper work to be processed, which means that our daughter and granddaughter cannot travel anywhere until then.

While the above troubles are typical to many Palestinians in East Jerusalem, these discriminatory policies did not lessen our happiness.

The newborn has brought joy to our family, and despite the physical and political troubles, holding my newborn granddaughter was enough to wash away a lot of the pain and anger and to renew the hope that one day we can all enjoy freedom, away from discrimination, occupation and killings.

______________________________________________

Daoud Kuttab, an award winning Palestinian journalist who resides in Jerusalem and Amman. Mr. Kuttab is the director general of Community Media Network a media NGO that runs a radio station in Amman (al balad radio 92.4fm) a newsweb site ammannet.net and a TV production operation in Palestine Penmedia (penmedia.ps) which is producing the Palestinian version of Sesame street. You can read his blogs on DaoudKuttab.com and find him on Twitter @DaoudKuttab.

 
 
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