A Christian Voice - a Human Concern
“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed"
(2 Corinthians 8-9)
Issue No. 39, January 2007
Thoughts and concerns of a Palestinian young man studying abroad and wondering if he would be allowed to come back and live in his hometown Jerusalem
My Right of Residency – Does it exist?
By: Rami Bahbah
Am I going to be denied entry to my country? Am I still considered a legal resident of the country I was born and raised in? Is my residency card going to be confiscated? All those questions popped-up in my mind when I recently purchased an airline ticket to visit my family and friends in Palestine.
Like many Palestinians who were born in East Jerusalem, I acquired conditional legal residency in the State of Israel. This means that I have the right to live, work, and receive benefits. However; this doesn’t mean that I am a citizen nor does it mean that my right of residency is infinite. In fact, the Israeli Ministry of Interior has implemented numerous laws and regulations authorizing the confiscation of Jerusalem identity cards without legal justification such as the Center of Life policy enacted in 1995.
This policy would require Palestinian residents to prove that they have lived and worked in Jerusalem during
the preceding seven years in order to maintain their right of residency. The burden of proof demanded is so rigorous and aggravating. Palestinians who fail to prove that their “center of life” is Jerusalem risk having their residency status revoked. Since the institution of this policy, the number of Jerusalem identity cards confiscated increased tremendously.
In my case, I have lived and worked in Jerusalem for only two consecutive years during the past seven years. This makes me vulnerable to having my Jerusalem identity card confiscated and my right of residency in Jerusalem abolished
I might be blessed to have obtained residency and citizenship in another country during my higher education pursuit; however, it still breaks my heart to think about the idea that someday I might have to obtain a visitor’s visa in order to visit Jerusalem. It is very hard for me to accept the idea that someday I will be asked to leave the country that I spent my childhood and teenage years in. I just can’t manage to register this daunting idea. Who would accept something like that?
The “Center of Life” policy is only one of the many measures implemented by Israel's Ministry of Interior to squeeze-out as many Palestinians as possible. Driving Palestinians out of Jerusalem has always been Israel’s most favorite practice and truth be said, Israel has done a pretty good job so far. Palestinians are on the run to leave the territories due to the harsh security and economic situation, not to mention the final construction stages of the Apartheid Wall that has isolated thousands of Palestinians outside the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem. The only thing I can conclude from Israel’s continuous discriminatory actions against Palestinians in general and Jerusalemites in specific is a shift towards a total demographic cleansing.
However, if there is one thing that I know for a fact, it is this: I am not going to easily give up my right of residency in Jerusalem, and I will do whatever it takes to maintain my status as a Palestinian Jerusalemite. I will definitely not succumb to the Israeli pressures and dump my Jerusalem ID so that a new Israeli settler can take my spot…
VOX Advocacy Calendar
What can you do ...?
Vox embraces The East Jerusalem YMCA, YWCA of Palestine, DSPR (Department of Services to the Palestinian Refugees, The Middle East Council of Churches), the Near East Council of Churches Gaza, Sabeel Liberation Theology Center, Justice and Peace Commission Jerusalem, Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate in Jerusalem, Caritas Jerusalem and the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI).
Vox appeals to the world's Church leaders to pray and act to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinians as a consequence of the extremely harsh measures and policies imposed by the Israeli occupying forces. Vox urges all national leaders, international governmental and non-governmental institutions to take action and pressure Israel to abide by international humanitarian law.