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Personal Story

To Reclaim Legal Status in the City of Her Birth, Ghadeer Takes on State Bureaucracy—and Wins


Ghadeer, a Palestinian Jerusalemite, and her family emigrated to the United States when she was a child. Eventually she married and had a family. Years later, after her marriage ended and her children struck out on their own, she decided to return to her hometown near Jerusalem and live with her mother, who had left the US years earlier. But restoring her residency status was a lengthy and costly process, and the prospects for her daughter are more unclear.

Background: Palestinian with a revoked Jerusalem permanent-resident ID due to leaving the country; applying for reinstatement

Status: Has held a temporary-resident visa since 2018; she was set to receive her permanent-resident ID in March 2020, but the coronavirus pandemic delayed the process.

Ghadeer1 was born in 1967 and raised in Shu‘fat, a Palestinian village north of the Old City of Jerusalem. As a Jerusalem resident, she was entitled to permanent residency through her parents, and she received a permanent-resident ID when she turned 16.

In the early 1980s, her parents went to the US for better economic opportunities, and she and her siblings left Shu‘fat to join them. When Ghadeer returned to Jerusalem through the Ben Gurion Airport about 10 years later, she entered on her US passport and received a tourist visa; there was no mention of her permanent-residency ID as a native of Jerusalem. During a visit to Jerusalem in 2000, she learned that her permanent-resident status may have been revoked, since she had remained abroad for so long. (She had married in the US and had children, and she was unable to travel to Jerusalem as often as was required to retain her permanent-resident status.) But by 2016, three of her four children had grown up and left home, and she had gone through a divorce; she began to consider moving back to Jerusalem. Her brother told her that she might be able to get her permanent-resident status reinstated.2

Serial Lawyers Give Ghadeer the Runaround; Multiple Rejections Ensue

In 2016, Ghadeer returned to Shu‘fat with her youngest daughter and moved in with her mother, who had returned from the US many years earlier. To start the process to reclaim her status, she hired an Israeli lawyer who was recommended by a family member. She paid him about $5,000, but he never did anything for her. He told her she had to wait two years before applying for residency, though this contradicted other information she received. He did not go with her to the Ministry of Interior to renew her tourist visa, and he refused to submit her application for residency.

Ghadeer applied on her own. Her application was rejected, and she was never given a reason. She managed to recoup $2,000 from the lawyer only when she threatened to sue him. Ghadeer got another lawyer, a Palestinian this time, and he charged her NIS 1,500 (around $430) to fill out a new application. But he would not submit it on her behalf; she had to do that. This second application was also rejected.

A Confusing, Draining, and Expensive Process

Ghadeer found the process to be quite confusing and redundant. What made matters worse was that many of the documents were in Hebrew, a language she didn’t speak or read. The residency application itself is in Arabic and Hebrew. She had known the process would not be easy; her mother had spent about 20 years trying to get her own permanent-resident status restored. Lawyers took advantage of her naivete; one used to charge her $500 per visa renewal.

The process required that applicants produce a host of documents that were never identified at the outset: Every time she presented a document that had been requested by a lawyer or an Interior Ministry employee, they would tell her of another document she needed or point out an error in the document she had. Ghadeer describes the process as a never-ending chase after documents: marriage contracts, divorce decrees, custody papers, property tax bills, electricity bills, and on and on. She also had to pay a middleman NIS 2,500 (around $710) to obtain her FBI background check report. She needed to submit an affidavit swearing that she lived with her mother to explain why none of the bills were in her name. She had to pay NIS 750 (around $215) every time she applied for residency and NIS 170 (around $50) every time she or her daughter renewed their visas.

Ghadeer Persists

In 2018, Ghadeer’s luck changed. A friend told her about HaMoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual, an Israeli human rights nongovernmental organization that works with Palestinians whose rights have been violated, including their right to residency. Working with the center, Ghadeer found the process to be more straightforward, and she was able to obtain her temporary visa relatively quickly. She expects to receive her permanent-resident ID this year; she would have gotten it sooner had it not been for the closures resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.

While Ghadeer has been successful in obtaining residency and now has a job working with children with special needs, the four-year process has left her emotionally and financially drained. “Nothing has been easy about returning to the country. Everything is difficult,” she explains. She has often asked herself whether moving back to Shu‘fat was a good idea.

Next Up: The Fight for Her Daughter’s Residency

While Ghadeer was able to reinstate her revoked residency, her daughter’s case is another story, because she was not born in Jerusalem, and she was never registered under her mother’s permanent-resident ID. Ghadeer is hoping that her daughter will be able to obtain residency through the family unification process. But her daughter is fast approaching 18 years old, and this complicates her case.



The research for this story was conducted in summer 2020. Identifying information has been changed.


During this time, the case of Akram Abd al-Haq, a Palestinian Jerusalemite who had moved to the US and returned to Jerusalem and attempted to reinstate his Jerusalem residency, was ongoing. In March 2017, the Israeli High Court of Justice ruled that Palestinians in Jerusalem were native-born, and this brought hope that things could get easier (see The Case of Akram Abd al-Haq: When the Court Surprisingly Rules That Palestinian Jerusalemites Are “Native Residents”). 

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