A Diary of a New Jerusalemite: Paperwork
Since my first post on “A Diary of a New Jerusalemite” was optimistic and full of positivity, I decided to write a post describing the challenging reality that Jerusalemites have to deal with even hours or days after being born.
This reality hit me right after I gave birth, while I was still in the hospital recovering. I was approached by a hospital worker who is the liaison between the Israeli National Insurance company and patients at the hospital. For those readers who are not familiar with Israeli policies towards East Jerusalemites, you might be shocked to hear about the complicated procedures and never-ending paperwork that are required for a Jerusalemite baby to acquire what, to others, may appear to be a basic human right.
To give you a glimpse of these complications, I wanted to tell you what my husband and I had to go through in order to be able to travel across the bridge to Amman with our five-week-old son to visit some relatives in October.
First of all, we had to get a permit from the Ministry of Interior allowing us to take him out of the country. This is something that all Jerusalemites need to obtain each time they travel with their children until they are of a certain age. It sounds like it’s not a big deal and is actually a good security measure to have and I agree with that. On the other hand, the method of obtaining this paper can be much simpler if Israel would only allow it to be. Instead of being helpful, it’s often very frustrating.
Jerusalem has several Ministry of Interior offices, but East Jerusalemites are only allowed to go to one of these offices. 300,000 people are only allowed to go to one building to get all kinds of papers; this is disastrous! It is the most dreaded trip for each Jerusalemite to go to the Ministry of Interior because it often includes a long wait outside under the sun, and then a very long wait inside for your turn. Oh, and guess what, now they have different numbers depending on the service that you need. So, you tell an Israeli employee, who speaks broken Arabic, sitting next to a machine that spits out numbers what you are there for. And if they don’t understand exactly what you need, which has happened to me twice, you get to wait twice as long for your turn!
In all cases, I got the permission slip, which took 45 minutes for the employee to type out, since they had to enter all kinds of information about my husband, me, and my son. Along with this permission, they had to print out my son’s temporary birth certificate, which does not include an ID number, because his father is from West Bank.
In order for my son to obtain an ID number, I need to apply for this, also in the Ministry of Interior, then after they study my application, they call me and conduct an interview. When I go to my interview, they ask for a million papers, proving that I have lived in Jerusalem since the day I got married. And if there is one paper missing, I will need to wait at least two more months to repeat the same procedure.
After we received this permission slip, and the temporary birth certificate, we had to apply for a temporary Jordanian passport for my son in order to leave Jordan when coming back. This is something that all Jerusalemites have to do in order to cross the bridge between Israel and Jordan.
The day we left to the bridge, I literally had a folder full of papers for my little infant son to be able to travel with us. I know that this is only the start of a very long journey full of papers and unnecessary procedures, the beginning of my son’s own journey of what it means to be a Jerusalemite in a world that makes it difficult for him to live a normal life in his own country.