Hadeel al-Bardawil, 22
I live with my daughter, Israa, who is 20 months old, and my son Sami, who is 10 months old, in my mother-in-law's house in the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood in Gaza City. The house has four rooms, a kitchen, and bathroom, and is 260 square meters in size. Half of the house has a concrete roof, and the other half is covered with an asbestos roof. Also living in the house are my husband's two brothers and their families.
My husband, Jamal, and I were both born in Gaza. Before we married, he went to the West Bank to visit his sister and found work there as a tailor. Then he changed the address in his ID card from Gaza to a-Ram, a neighborhood near Ramallah.
In March 2004, Jamal returned to Gaza. That same month, we became engaged. We married a few months later, in July. From then on we lived in a room of his parents' house, the same house I am living in now.
Hadeel al-Bardawil and her children. Photo: Muhammad Sabah, B'Tselem, 28 July 2008.
Jamal couldn't find work in Gaza. He requested a permit to go from Gaza to the West Bank and received it in March 2005. He left Gaza and found sewing work and began to earn money. In November 2005, he returned, after he had managed to save 10,000 shekels. He spent a lot of it on fixing the house we were living in. The rest of the money went to cover our daily expenses. He tried to find work in Gaza, but couldn't.
On 12 September 2006, our daughter was born. My husband was by my side and helped share the burden after she was born. He also helped around the house. The main problem was that we didn't have money to meet our basic needs, such as milk and diapers. We barely had enough to cover our basic food costs. Jamal had to borrow money from his brothers and relatives. He worked at temporary jobs, no more than two or three days a month and we didn't have enough money. His brother Jalal, an electrician, also worked only once in a while, and the money he earned was barely enough for him and his family. The other brother, Rami, worked as a policeman, earning 1,000 shekels a month, of which 800 was deducted to repay a loan he took to build the house in 2006.
Being unable to find work in the Strip, Jamal decided to return to the West Bank and work there. In February 2007, he returned to the West Bank and found a job in sewing. Sometimes he also worked as an electrician in homes. He made a good living, and to save money, he lived in one of the plants where he worked.
In July 2007, Jamal requested a permit to visit in the Gaza Strip. He received the permit and, on 29 July, entered the Strip, stayed with me for ten days, and then returned to his work in the West Bank. At the time, I was in my seventh month of pregnancy. Before Sami was born, I was in horrible shape psychologically because my husband was not with me, and because I feared that the birth would have to be by Caesarean section, like it was with Israa.
I asked Jamal to be present at Sami's birth. He requested a permit to visit Gaza, but the Israelis refused this time. I felt very isolated without Jamal at my side, even though my mother-in-law and mother were with me. Nobody can take Jamal's place. He is a very delicate and good-hearted person.
On 12 October 2007, I gave birth to Sami at a-Shifaa Hospital. It was a regular birth, without problems. I was very happy that my son was born, but it was also mixed with sadness because my husband was not with me.
After Sami was born, Jamal made another request for a permit to visit, but the Israelis denied the request. I also submitted a request to visit the West Bank, but the Israelis refused.
Jamal has never seen his son. After we gave up making requests for permits, he contacted HaMoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual to seek their help in getting me a permit to enter the West Bank for a visit. HaMoked petitioned the Supreme Court and the court set a hearing for 23 October 2008.
I am waiting for the hearing on the petition, hoping the court will allow me and the children to go and live in the West Bank with my husband. All that I ask for is to live my life in dignity with my family. My children now run to their uncles and call them “daddy.” I want them to be with their father like other children.
I can't continue like this, with me in Gaza and my husband in the West Bank.
Hadeel Riad Salem al-Bardawil, 22, married with two children, is a homemaker and resident of Gaza City. Her testimony was given to Muhammad Sabah at her home on 28 July 2008