Mar 08 2005

March 8th , Women’s Day, Good News from an unexpected source

Published by at 12:00 am under Blogs

Today is Women’s Day. In response to the call by the Director General of UNESCO, I decided, yesterday, to appoint Nahed Abu Toumeh as director for Al Quds Educational Television, for one day. I didn’t realize when I wrote the memo that Nahed would take the issue so seriously. She really got excited, came to work early dressed with a skirt and ready to take on the job very seriously. I was very happy for her and tried to be very supportive. She made decision, called for meetings, invited the press and gave the idea real meaning.

I was rather happy all day. At the end of the day I drove to Jerusalem with one of my staff, Bayan Naser, our accountant who lives on the Jerusalem side of the wall/checkpoint. When we found the Qalandia checkpoint back up, we decided to try the DCO checkpoint. When we got there, we discovered that line waiting was not moving. After about 20 minutes of waiting without any movement, I decided to turn off my car, that was a fatal mistake. Minutes later, the line started to move but my car was dead. Nothing would happen no matter what I tried. I tried to ask a fellow driver to help me but he said he was in a rush. Najjwa Najjar a friend also was in line and in a rush (she had to be present at a screening in Jerusalem). But her husband Hani agreed to give our car a jump. We tried to get it started but again nothing. I told them to go on and we pushed the car to a nearby house and decided to walk. A friend gave us a ride and I went to a garage in Ramllah to fix the car while I made sure Bayan got a ride to her home. The mechanic agreed to help me and we got in his car and started driving to Jerusalem when his car got a flat tire. We fixed the flat quickly, continued driving to where I left my car. He succeeded in getting my car started and we drove back to his garage. I left it there, walked to the Qalandia checkpoint and after crossing took a bus to Jerusalem.

Throughout this problem, I somehow kept a cool head. Something had happened to me that nothing was going to make me upset. I went to my brother’s law office and invited him and his partner to dinner in Bethlehem. His partner was busy, but Jonathan agreed. He kept on asking me why we were celebrating, I told him something about news I had heard that Holland was planning to cover the entire budget of our upcoming Sesame street program (over $2 million). But somehow, as important as that was, it wasn’t the reason I wanted to celebrate.

Finally, I remembered. It started early in the morning. For over a month I have been dreading having to go to the Israeli ministry of interior in Jerusalem to renew my reentry permit. Without such a renewal, I lose my right to live in Jerusalem and to travel in and out. In a sense I become a tourist in my country. The Interior Ministry in Jerusalem has been a nightmare for Palestinians. You have to wait in line for days to get in. Many camp at night so that they can get a chance to get in. Last summer, my daughter Tamara, tried to come real early and was unable to get in all day. I wrote a long article at the time about it. Since then I had heard that renewing the reentry permit can now be done by mail, I had my brother’s law office check this issue, but they were unable to get any information on it. Finally Jonathan made a suggestion: “why don’t you get your secretary to call all day to the Interior Ministry, maybe she can get lucky and someone will answer the phone and she can ask whether you can do this by mail.”

Early on March 8 I had taken the phone number of the Israeli interior ministry and was planning to give it to my secretary, but then I decided to first try to call my self. I punched the numbers doubting I would get through. Suddenly the phone answered and I got Reem Dqedek an Arab staff person working at the Israeli Interior Ministry.

Surprised that I got her, I asked about whether the issue can be dealt with by mail. She answered yes and explained to me what I need to do. How long will it take, I asked? About 10 days. But I have to travel Thursday, I explained. Well you can’t renew your reentry permit if you are not in town, she replied. Unhappy with this answer, I venture and ask a question I was sure she would not agree to, can you help me get an appointment so I don’t have to wait in line all night. Sure, she said to my great surprise. I gave her my name, my ID number and she gave me an appointment for 10:30 the following day. Unbelievable. I was going to be able to renew my reentry without having to waste a day or two.

Sure enough the next day I got in easily and within an hour I had an extension to my reentry. For how long, I asked hoping it will not be the usual one year extension. “ We wouldn’t see you for three years,” Reem Dqedeq says. ‘Well I explained that tamara, my daughter will be coming from college this summer and she needs to get her ID card. “I am not sure we can give her such an appointment,” she disappoints me. She will have to wait in line…………The bad news about Tamara doesn’t dampen my spirits as I walk out of the Interior Ministry with a three year extension on my reentry. By the summer time, maybe we can get a similar break to get Tamara in, I convince myself.


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