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Freedom of Movement?

Rawna and Issa Khouriya live in Jifna where they have a guesthouse. I stayed there on Sunday evening. The town is about half Christian. Rawna and Issa have 2 children and the oldest is now studying in Germany.

Life under Jordanian rule was much easier and they both had good jobs. Issa was a contracter and Rawna worked in setting up learning centres for disabled children. As the Israeli occupation progessed, so did the difficulties facing the family.

The most notable is freedom of movement. One year, the family wanted to go to Jerusalem for the holy days of Easter. They got permits and were excited too be in Jerusalem for the first time. They got to the checkpoint and they let Issa through, then their daughter, then Rawna and now for their son. The young soldier did not permit the son passage. Despite Rawna showing he was on her permit, the same as the daughter, and despite many pleas and tears, the soldier did not give in and said the son should go back home. So in the end they all went back. To this day they have not been in Jerusalem.

Yes, families are separated. One may get a permit and not another. And going to checkpolnts where you are at the mercy of some 18 year-old, always hat in hand so to speak. Sometimes they pick out the Christians and tell them to go ahead of the Muslims so as to create division. And there are flying checkpoints, ones that appear at any time, never knowing how long it will take to get from one place to another.

Nearby Jifna is the largest refugee camp in the West Bank. Balata refugee camp is crowded. There is no privacy. If someone dies, you must hold the body close like a baby since there is no room to carry a body horizontally. Fridges, for example are hoisted to the roof and passed from roof to roof until there is a road where it can be hoisted down. That is how tight the homes are. Refugee camps only have a certain area on which to build and cannot go outside that perameter. So they build up, etc. Grandparents may live on one floor, then their children, then another floor to accomodate married grandchildren, etc. As the population grew, the area for the camps did not. So they are crowded with no green space. And in all the camps there are frequent incursions by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).

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