HEBRON REFLECTION: What will happen to Samer?

14 October 2005

HEBRON REFLECTION: What will happen to Samer?

by Dianne Roe

Samer had just been released from prison when I met him in 1990. He was
seven years old. The Israeli authorities said he had been throwing stones.
They released Samer when his father paid them some money.

Samer is twenty-two now and had just been released from prison when I saw
him at his grandmother's house in Bethany on Sunday, 9 October. The Israeli
authorities put him in prison this time because they caught him working in
Jerusalem. He will go back to prison again if he goes outside his village.

In other words, if he wants to visit his mother or sisters, he risks
imprisonment. If he wants to go to pick up his mail, that too could cost
him his freedom. Samer's village--the biblical Bethany, also called
Azzariyya--is two miles from Jerusalem's old city. When Israel built a ring
of settlements around Palestinian East Jerusalem, they called the area
"Greater Jerusalem." Bethany is deep inside that area. However Israel does
not issue Jerusalem ID's to residents of the Palestinian population centers
although they are within the area Israel calls "greater Jerusalem."

Instead, with a series of fences, walls, and checkpoints Israel has turned
small villages like Bethany into virtual prisons. The wall that Israel is
building is already at the back door of Samer's grandmother's house.

Samer's mother was born in Jerusalem. She has the Jerusalem ID, and thus
can live and work in Jerusalem. Her two oldest children also have the
Jerusalem ID. Samer was not so lucky. When he was born, his birth
certificate indicated he would have west bank ID. Samer's twin sisters were
born shortly after I first met Samer in 1990 and they too were considered
did not receive a Jerusalem ID. The children could live with their mother
until they reached age 16, when they would have to carry an ID.

Recently the twins' older sister advocated to the Israeli authorities on
their behalf and when the twins reach age 16 next year, they will have the
Jerusalem ID. It would be nearly impossible to do the same for Samer,
especially now that he is already in his twenties.

According to an article in yesterday's Ha'aretz (an Israeli newspaper) "in
effect, the fence has pushed tens of thousands of Palestinians beyond the
municipal borders and affected the routine of their lives and that of the
residents of many Palestinian villages alongside Jerusalem." ( Nadav
Shragai, Jerusalem Arabs find themselves pushed out Ha'aretz 10 October
2005) The article notes that "52% of those interviewed said they had
difficulties reaching their places of work or that they had lost them

What will happen with Samer? If the present Israeli policy continues, he
will risk imprisonment when he wants to look for work. He and hundreds more
like him will spend what is potentially the most productive years of their
lives, in and out of Israeli jails.