After almost a decade of waiting, a Palestinian who was married to an Israeli woman from Dimona and whose son served in the Israel Defense Forces received an Israeli ID card on Tuesday.
Early in the morning Hussein arrived with his extended family at the Interior Ministry offices in Be’er Sheva, where for the first time he received the coveted document and permanent residency status.
In the 1970s Hussein worked in a Tel Aviv restaurant where he met Stella Peretz, an Israeli woman who eventually became his wife. The two moved to Tul Karm and in 1982 their eldest son Mohammed was born. In the 1990s, as the security situation deteriorated, the couple separated; Hussein remained in the Palestinian Authority's territory and Stella moved to Dimona with her son, who took the name Yossi Peretz. At the age of 18, Peretz enlisted in the IDF, became a combat soldier and served as a volunteer for three years.
Under the Citizenship and Entry Into Israel Law, the interior minister can grant permanent residency status to a Palestinian who meets the following criterion: “that he identifies with the State of Israel and its goals, and that he or a member of his family performed a significant act to promote the security, economy or some other important matter of the state.” So that his son’s service in the IDF became a reason for receiving the ID card.
But the path to receiving the document took nine years, during which, after a legal proceeding, he was eligible for temporary residency and was exposed on a daily basis to the threat of expulsion to the territories. In 2004 he was arrested, and only thanks to the intervention of his attorney and his son, who came to the checkpoint, was he returned to Israel, after which a petition was served to the High Court of Justice concerning his case.
Today, after receiving the ID card, Hussein feels safe in Israel and plans to open a new leaf in his life. “Now I’m calm,” he told Haaretz yesterday morning. “Without the document I didn’t know what would happen to me the next day, had I opened a business or signed a leasing contract they could have expelled me. I wandered from place to place and everything depended on my source of livelihood and where I could permit myself to live. I had one foot here and one foot there.”
During the past nine years Hussein wandered among various cities, living in Dimona, Ramat Gan and Tira. “Only two things were important to me, to see my son and to have a place to work,” he says.
In recent years, with temporary residency papers and an open petition to the High Court, Hussein waited for a decision, for the moment when he would be able to get on with his life without fear.
Now he plans to start a business with his son, and they are trying to decide between Tel Aviv and Dimona.
“I’m a butcher by trade and I have a dream of starting a business in the field, together with my son. I still don’t know where I’ll live, there are many doubts and decisions to make,” he says.
Despite the many years of waiting and life far from his son, Hussein is not angry at the government or the Interior Ministry. “I learned from the Jews that you need a lot of patience. It’s important to me to personally thank attorney Didi Rothschild, attorney Yafit Meir and The New York Times photographer Rina Hollander, who were at my side for nine years and helped me with everything I needed.”