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Theoretically nothing is simpler than changing one's address with the Interior Ministry. But when it comes to Arabs who are residents of East Jerusalem with the status of permanent resident in Israel, the process can take years. What is worse, until they complete the painful procedure and changed their address, they cannot register their children in their identity card, and their children thus have no civil status in the interim. As a result, the children cannot receive National Insurance Institute child allowances or belong to a health maintenance organization. If the children reach the age of 18 without being registered, they will have no civil status for the rest of their life - unable to get work, a driver's license and liable at any moment for arrest. That is the fate of families who dare to leave East Jerusalem for another part of the country.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) are each dealing with a caseload of East Jerusalem residents with problems changing their address. One of the most difficult cases is that of Manal Dardon and her five children. Dardon has been living in the Negev town of Rahat since 2000 when she separated from her husband, who is from Hebron. She has not been able to register her children in Israel. Her eldest, Sahar, is 15. She does not receive child allowances and relies on financial help from her relatives.

Over the past two years, Dardon has repeatedly approached the bureau of the Population Administration in Be'er Sheva to register her children. After PHR intervened, the bureau responded that she should turn to the East Jerusalem bureau.

But the case of Jiha Abu Ramuz, who moved with her husband in 2004 to the Negev from Jerusalem, shows that even if Dardon does so, it is doubtful her case will be handled there. Population Administration workers in East Jerusalem refused to accept her documents and did so only after an appeal from PHR. East Jerusalem transferred her documents to Be'er Sheva, which referred her back to East Jerusalem.

Meanwhile, her two children, ages 2 and 4, have not received their child allowances.

The International Convention on the Rights of the Child states that it is a child's right to receive citizenship. However the writers of the convention apparently did not foresee the possibility that children would be ineligible for this status because their parents were unable to change their address.

In a letter to the Interior Ministry, PHR called Abu Ramuz's situation "Kafkaesque bureaucracy."

From the series of cases presented to Haaretz it appears that Interior Ministry protocol is not to deal with address-change requests of East Jerusalem residents unless they have lived in the new place for six months. A number of rights and services are difficult to obtain in a person's new location without an address change - for example, registering for school.

But many are unable to change their address even after six months.

This is what Tarek Shahuan, a chef, experienced after moving from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv 18 months ago. He was able to change his address in November 2006 only after the intervention of attorney Oded Peler of ACRI. "They said there was a special procedure for minorities who are residents of East Jerusalem," Peler said. Meanwhile Shahuan was unable to receive a parking permit from the municipality and piled up fines amounting to NIS 4,000.

Interior Ministry spokeswoman Sabin Hadad said in response that the procedure distinguishes between address changes for Israeli citizens and residents, "because a resident's status is connected to his place of residence." Requests for change of address requires proof that the center of an applicant's life is in his new place of residence. Further, "the registration of children as permanent residents is examined based on the center of life of the family - and the address is an important component of that."

The Interior Ministry did not respond. The Tel Aviv Municipality said Shahuan's parking tickets would be voided.