Newspaper article International New York Times

A Mother's Fear

Newspaper article International New York Times

A Mother's Fear

Article excerpt

In my Palestinian neighborhood, our children are not safe.

There was a huge crash, and I felt the ground shake under my family's home. We heard the first explosion just as we had finished our iftar meal ending the daily Ramadan fast and settled down in front of the television. Out the window, I could see people running in the streets of Beit Hanina, my Palestinian neighborhood. Then came a second crash, and a third.

We heard that bomb shelters had been opened in West Jerusalem, so we assumed these were rockets from Gaza.

But the only bomb shelters near us are in Jewish settlements like Pisgat Ze'ev and Hagiva Hatzarfatit in occupied East Jerusalem, and we were not going to go there, especially after the events of the past weeks. Just days ago, in apparent retribution for the killing of three Israeli youths, Jewish extremists kidnapped, tortured and murdered Muhammad Abu Khdeir, a Palestinian boy one year younger than my own son, and the Israeli authorities have arrested and beaten hundreds of Palestinians throughout East Jerusalem.

So we sat in our living room listening to the explosions -- the sound of rockets being intercepted in the air -- painfully aware that Gaza civilians would pay a heavy price for their leaders' attempt to hit the Israeli seat of government.

I was born and raised in Beit Hanina, and I attended Bir Zeit University near Ramallah. When the first intifada started in 1987 and the Israeli military closed my university, I began working as a journalist, covering not only the stone-throwing demonstrations but also the lesser-known civil-resistance campaign to end the Israeli military occupation.

In 1989, I flew to a conference in London about education in the Palestinian territories; there I met the man who would become my husband. He was a Palestinian, too, and his family came from Nablus. But he was born and raised in Doha, Qatar, so he had never been allowed to visit the West Bank, like millions of other Palestinian refugees.

In 1994, both of our families traveled to Jordan and we celebrated our marriage in a country that was home to none of us. I moved to live with my husband in the Persian Gulf, and I became pregnant in 1996. After consulting with lawyers, I realized that I would need to go home to Jerusalem to deliver my son so that he would be issued a Jerusalem residency number, and not risk being banned from visiting the Palestinian territories, like his father.

I returned to Jerusalem alone. In a cruel twist of fate and policy, the Israeli authorities informed me that my son would not be given a Jerusalem ID as long as I remained married to his father. Because one of his parents was a Palestinian without a Jerusalem ID, my son was not entitled to inherit my residency status. After years of financially and emotionally draining legal struggle, my husband and I divorced -- the strain ended not just our marriage but our relationship -- and my son, Marwan, was given his identity card. …

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