24 September 2013
AL-KHALIL (HEBRON): Entery Denied: Part II*
* The word “entry” is intentionally misspelled to reflect the misspelling on the Israeli “Entery Denied” stamp.
I made a second attempt to cross the
border. Spoiler alert, I didn’t make it.
I have been volunteering with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) in Palestine for one year. Due to visa restrictions all volunteers have to come into the country under a tourist visa, and leave every three months to renew our visas. Last week I was returning across the Allenby Border Crossing for my fourth stint. I was questioned extensively about myself, my family, my plans for my visit, and the work of CPT. After 7 hours of questioning and waiting I was told I was denied entry. I asked the reason for my denial. They did not give a clear answer, but did suggest that part of the reason involved not having sufficient evidence to support back my story. The soldier suggested I return later with a letter from CPT, evidence of where I was going to stay, and added that I should get a letter from the Israeli embassy. I took his advice, but the Israeli embassy was closed for over a week. So I returned to the border with a letter from CPT stating our work, my position, and my purpose for entering the country. I also printed out two letters from Israeli friends ‘inviting’ me.
My second attempt was similar to the first. I was questioned multiple times. I was asked to trace my family lineage back three generations. I was asked to prove my religion. I was accused of lying about my reasons for coming to the country. I found this ironic because I have always been honest about my reasons for entering, and it has brought me nothing but
Finally I was denied entry again. This time, the soldier explained it was because CPT is not a recognized organization. I told the soldier that we legally do not need to be recognized by Israel, and I asked why this was a reason for not letting me in. He said his commander said I couldn’t come in for that reason, and that was the end of the conversation.
In recent months Israeli border security has kept two other CPTers from crossing (that is 50% of the CPTers attempting to enter during that time). This is the first time someone has explicitly stated that it is because we are with CPT, although we assumed as much before.
CPT has been working in Hebron for 19 years. We are a member of the Association of International Development Agencies (AIDA). We receive grants from the United Nations and from Save the Children UK. CPT is a well known, respected INGO in the region. We have no explanation for the targeting of CPTers at the border in recent months and I question why the Israeli authorities see people working for a ‘violence reduction program’ as a threat.
For Part I of Jonathan's first border denial click here