Family Reunited in Betlehem After 6 Years

27 December 2007

Spend any time in Occupied Palestine and you will hear countless stories of how families are divided by various aspects of the Israeli Occupation of Palestine. One such story is that of the Al-Hreimi family, grandfather Yasin, father Jalal, and daughter Samaher Al-Hreimi.

Yasin Hreimi was one of twenty six Palestinians exiled to Gaza as part of a deal brokered between Israelis and Palestinians at the end of a month long Israeli seige of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in 2002. Nearly 200 Palestinian men, women, and children sought refuge in the Church of the Nativity during this seige. The seige was part of a much larger Israeli offensive dubbed “Operation Defensive Shield.”

After just one month in Gaza, Yasin’s son, Jalal, was arrested and sentenced to twelve years imprisonment for participating in anti-Occupation activities. Yasin’s grief over his being forced into exile and his son’s imprisonment was only intensified further when, in 2003, another of his sons, Walid, died in Gaza after Israel denied him permission to return to the West Bank for life-saving kidney treatment.

Several attempts were made to visit the imprisoned Jalal in Gaza by family and friends but all attempts were for not, as everyone was denied access to Jalal. Finally, as a result of a brokered prisoner release deal between the Israelis and the Palestinian Authority, Jalal was released on 26 December 2007 after serving six of the twelve years he was sentenced to. He was reunited later in Bethlehem with his daughter, Samaher, after negotiations to move her from Gaza where she had gone in hopes of visiting her father to Bethlehem. Samaher was trapped in Gaza due to having gone on her grandmother’s permit, who died in Gaza, thus nullifying the permit and leaving Samaher stranded in the virtual prison that is the Gaza Strip.

Negotiations are currently underway for the transfer of Yasin, Jalal’s father to Bethlehem as a part of another release of imprisoned Palestinians although these seem unlikely to be of any success. Yasin has resigned himself to exile in Gaza, but is happy his son and granddaughter have been reunited after all these years.

The story of the Al-Hreimi family is not unique by any stretch of the imagination. There are some 10,000 Palestinians currently imprisoned by the Israelis. Among those still held by Israel are almost 400 children and 120 women. Another 900 are called administrative detainees, imprisoned without facing charges or a trial date. The dire situation for Palestinian prisoners is only exacerbated by the use of the Gaza Strip as a large open-air prison, with over a million people trapped inside.