Jihan Abu Ta’aima, an Arab living in the Gaza strip, married Abu Habak, an Israeli. The two had four children.
Life for the couple was already very difficult because of the political climate surrounding both of their places of birth. The family was forced to live apart.
However, now that Abu Tai’ama’s husband is dead, the situation has gotten worse because she hardly gets to see her children anymore.
Abu Ta’aima lives in Khan Yunis, which is in the Gaza Strip, while her children dwell one-hour drive away, in the Negev. Her youngest son, just an infant when they were separate, hardly knows his own mom.
Gisha Legal Center for Freedom of movement (LCFM), a human rights organization whose goal is to defend the right to freedom of movement of Palestinian residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, has been assisting the family.
"Aside from the three brief visits they have made to the Strip, and their daily video conversations, she never sees them. Little Yusuf was less than a year old when Israeli authorities wrenched him from her; now he barely knows his mother," the group writes.
Yusuf finally got to see his mother for the first time in almost a decade when she was permitted to enter Israel and that was only after Yusuf’s father died.
"It’s hard to see how separating a mother from her now fatherless children improves Israel’s security, while it’s clear as day how it deprives a mother and her children from their right to family life," writes Gisha–LCFM on their page.
The plight of a mother separated from her children is one that anyone with a heart can relate to, so is her desperation when she talks of taking her life.
Unfortunate though it is, Jihan Abu Ta’aima and her family's tale isn't an isolated one. Israel's controversial citizenship laws often tear families apart and children are often denied access to their families.
The Israeli restrictions on the movement of Palestinians in East Jerusalem include the Separation Wall. As if the wall wasn't enough, the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law prohibits Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza from obtaining permanent or temporary resident status in East Jerusalem or Israel. The citizenship law even applies to married couples when one of them holds Israeli residency or citizenship.
The law was first issued as a temporary order in 2003 but it has since been extended several times.
Prior to that, the process of family unification involved painstaking checks that often took several years to complete. However, eventually, most of the non-Israeli families got permits to stay in Israel and later granted legal status in the country.
Not so, anymore, as a result, a system of "quiet deportation" of East Jerusalem families has developed.
In June 2007, several other human rights organizations filed a petition before the Israeli High Court of Justice challenging the citizenship law. They highlighted the effect it has on children, and that the law not only separates spouses from each other, but also separates parents from their children. Ultimately, the challenge was rejected and the law was upheld.