Memoir of occupation: renewing a travel document

Well, thanks to the occupation that insists on persisting its presence not just physically but more of internally … something that feels like acid running every vein.

I had to pay a visit to the Ministry of Interior in Jerusalem today to renew my Travel Document. As some may know, we Jerusalemites do not carry Israeli passports. Because Jerusalem was occupied under International Law in 1948 and after the 1967 occupation of the city, citizens became under Jordanian jurisdiction (it is quite a situation that needs some explanation). So our status in the city is this way; we carry both Jordanian temporary passports and Israeli travel documents.

The Travel Document is renewed every two years, and it is something that serves quite as a VIP in the Ben Gurion airport. For instance, if you carry this document like me, you don’t have to wait in line; you are escorted directly to the last destination before duty-free. Of course, the service includes complete body massage (some people call it body search). I often call it striptease.

When you enter any country, they look at you with quite an unusual, unexplained gaze. Sometimes they take you for an exclusive conversation (some people call it interrogation). You know some things like these. But for honesty reasons, it is much better than traveling through the Allenby Bridge (via Jordan). Because on top of all, the Bridge is proper coordination of de-humiliation (de-humiliation is a concept I invented from the creativity of our situation). To be more honest, I prefer humiliation to de-humiliation. It is ok if most of you will not understand. Such feelings are especially for us, Palestinians.

Anyway, my visit to the ministry of interior.

My daughter and ex-husband were there before, taking a number in advance. My daughter called me as I entered to warn me to be relaxed and ignore anything that happened when I opened because they had already asked for an exception (begging the security guards and the employees inside to let me in). Entering this place is exactly like entering prison. I have never been to jail, but it is like entering Qalandia checkpoints ( checkpoints, prisons, kind of interesting entrances ). I cannot bring this closer to people’s imagination, but it is coming through metal gates, machine checks, and all those details. The security “thing” over there. He could be either one of two things, a former ward in a dog shelter or a real prison. It was just a few moments of interacting with him, and it felt like poison injected into my veins. I started walking with my youngest daughter (who is also applying for a travel document), humming the Palestinian National Anthem and some of the revolutionary Palestinian songs I have seen a lot since the aggression on Gaza. It was helpful.

Luckily the first face I saw later was my ex-husband, so I had an excellent opportunity to master my fury in the right place.

We had two numbers ahead of us. The place was packed with people. After around forty minutes, our turn came.

Usually, staying with my ex in the same area for forty minutes doesn’t bring good consequences, but this time, we were sharing the same sentiments magically. He experienced the same dehumanizing feelings from the guards at the entrance, so my daughters. There was this sense of hidden inserted feeling of dehumanizing that somehow we were all digesting, trying to evolve around it secretly each within himself. It wasn’t where we could complain; they could just deny us the renewal or anything. One never knows what this place hides for him.

Our turn arrived; the woman was “kind,” speaking fluent Arabic who said she wasn’t an Arab. She also spoke fluent Hebrew. That is a perfect place of normalization, I guess!! But Arabs are only Arabic speakers over there.

I wouldn’t describe the next hour as horrible; we were sometimes laughing, actually. However, that intensity. That systemized approach to ethnically wipe us. I never thought how close it is. I know it was coming theoretically speaking. Watching the Israeli policy for years, from my experience, work, and studies, I know how the system works. It plans towards what Ilan Pappe called systematic ethnic cleansing. But living it is another thing.

First of all, there is this magnetic ID that will be an obligation that says that we are residents for ten years in a year. Our first residency was permanent. Of course, this ID is smart and with a GPS.

When my eldest daughter’s turn arrived, the “beautiful” woman scribbled through her Travel document and asked why she had often been outside the country. She explained she was studying, and the woman started what turned into an interrogation, which gave my daughter many knocks on her foot not to talk much. The word residency in another country, even if it is a student residence, could have many different explanations to a “nice” “Arabic,” “Hebrew” -a speaking employee who was struggling to make a difference between a visa stamp and a residency. After making some phone calls, asking for what looked like emergency consultations, she declared that my daughter’s ID could not be renewed until she finished her studies and came back to the country and proved that she was studying.

My son needed a paper saying that he doesn’t have an Israeli passport to issue his temporary Jordanian passport. (Some new procedure the Jordanian side is asking for with the documents) If you are wondering why we need a Jordanian Passport, well, it has some benefits. First, when you use it abroad, checking in makes us look more normal. It says it is a PASSPORT, except for those who understand the difference; they know the serial number that starts with a T. But this is not the worse situation seriously, it is only problematic when applying to Schengen countries when you realize that you can travel to countries 1,2,3,4,5 but not 6,7,8,9,10…but one shouldn’t complain much about such small details. Of course, we can travel to Arab countries such as Dubai with this passport. And the best benefit is that we don’t need a visa to Turkey. This is one real reason why I like to travel to Turkey or via Turkey. I feel that I can show the passport with pride.

Going back to the paper we needed for my son. Well, well, well, was the situation. First, they cannot give such a paper. However, if they give a paper that says that he is a resident of Jerusalem and doesn’t carry an Israeli passport, he can never be entitled to an Israeli passport for the rest of his life.

At that instant, I had a glimpse of an image; one day, Israel will force the Israeli passports on us, and my daughter and son will be struggling not belonging somewhere. My son, holding this temporary passport of a country that is not his, will force him to become a refugee in Jordan. My daughter denied her rights to live in Jerusalem because she decided, let’s say to stay abroad for some time.

As Jeff Halper calls it, this whole matrix of control suddenly felt surrounding me like a web. How this system systematically ethnically cleanses us.

We enter this place, which is one among many; the national security, Arnona, and the municipality are just a few to mention. Every possible means of getting rid of the people of Jerusalem is just systematically organized, and time is not even their limit.

Like a beast waiting for its victim to take the bait, it could wait and hold on, resting assuredly that time is on its side.

I went home after a couple of hours, understanding another occasion, while my heart was bleeding with tears on Gaza, amid the news of the savage murder of the four children on the beach in Gaza … With all the brutality of murder and bombarding, there is this cruelty of hatred that they intentionally inject into us .. that is full of resentfulness and rage accompanied by a continuous feeling of being dehumanized …

I wonder how this could ever be mended …

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