"Everyday I wonder if the police will come are remove my wife from our home," says G.K., a resident of East Jerusalem.
"Everyday I wonder if the police will come are remove my wife from our home," says G.K., a resident of East Jerusalem. G.K. and his wife M.K. (names have been changed) are a Christian couple living in Jerusalem. G.K. is a resident of Jerusalem. He was born in Jerusalem and holds a Jerusalem residency. This means that he, as a resident of Jerusalem, has an identification card that allows him to live in Jerusalem as a permanent resident and gives him access to travel without restriction into all areas inside Israel. While he holds this identification, he is still considered a Palestinian and does not hold Israeli citizenship. He can vote in the Palestinian elections, he holds a Israeli travel document (not a passport), but he is a resident of Jerusalem, which since 1967 was occupied by Israel and remains so today.
G.K. is married to M.K.. They have been married for six years and have one child, aged 3. Now G.K. and M.K. and their young child are like anyone other couple. G.K. works and provides a living for his family. He takes his son to day care, they visit family and friends, but there is one big difference. His wife, M.K., is a Palestinian from the West Bank town of Bethlehem. When they were married, they sought to make what in Jerusalem is known as "family unification." That is, G.K. wished to secure first a residency permit for his wife to live with him in Jerusalem after which after a number of years and renewing the permit, she would assume the same status as him. She would then also be a resident of Jerusalem.
Residents of Jerusalem have most of the benefits that all Israelis enjoy. They can join government sponsored health insurance schemes to cover their families, they can secure unemployment benefits, they can secure governmental child allowances as do all Israeli families. They can also travel and move without serious restrictions inside Israel.
However, securing the Jerusalem ID for a spouse from the West Bank over the last few years has become increasingly difficult. After the 1967 Six Day War, family unification applications were dealt with promptly. The average time span for obtaining permanent residency in Israel through family unification was one month. As the years went by, the whole process of family unification became harder and harder, until the whole process of family unification went on to take years.
In theory, the process for obtaining family unification was meant to take 5.25 years. If everything went well (with no interruptions along the way), within that period of time, an applicant could obtain a permanent resident identification (Blue Jerusalem ID) and following that, if they so wished, could then begin the process to obtaining Israeli citizenship. This whole process is known as the .gradual process.. The process involved the spouse/parent who held the permanent residency (Blue Jerusalem ID) applying for family unification on behalf of the spouse or child who they wished to obtain the permanent residents identification. The process begins with an application to the Ministry of Interior. This starts the process which began with establishing residency and obtaining official recognition from the National Insurance Institute (NII).
To start this process, one has to demonstrate that the family has Jerusalem as its center of life. They must have a Jerusalem residence, pay local municipal tax, have proof of residency, employment, and other items that indicate that the family physically resides in Jerusalem. The whole process of "family unification" is connected to actual recognition by the Israeli NII of the petitioning spouse as being resident in Israel. This is done by the visiting the spouse in their home, sometimes more than once, and the need to maintain a physical residency within Israel or within Jerusalem's municipal boundaries (which are considered inside Israel according to the current law). Without recognition of by the NII by having an open file and having all of the requirements of this agency being met, family unification applications cannot move forward. Since 2002, the whole process was stopped due to the situation in the country at that time. In August 2005, a clarification was made where the new law stipulates that those who applied for family unification before May 12, 2002 and were in the stages of the process could move their applications forward. Those married after this date found their applications frozen. They will never be able to have a real family.
In addition, they also stipulated that family unification applications for West Bank and Gaza Strip resident spouses could be made under the conditions that: (1) women had to be above 25 years old and (2) men had to be above 35 years of age. Today, this new law has been upheld by the Israeli Supreme Court and now is the prevailing law of the country. G.K. says: "Now, we do not know if I will ever be able to live with my wife in Jerusalem. If I lose my Jerusalem ID, I'll lose my job because I won't be able to enter Jerusalem. I have already been caught once by the police with my wife in Jerusalem. I had to pay a large fine because she is not a resident. Now, we are thinking our only solution is to leave Jerusalem so we can live as a family together."