Jallad was one of nearly 180,000 Palestinians who received special permits to enter Israel throughout the month of Ramadan this year.
According to Israel’s office for Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), which issues the entry permits, some 800,000 Palestinians crossed into Israel from the West Bank last Ramadan “for family visits, prayers, and pilgrimage to holy Muslim sites.” The number this year is expected to surpass 1 million.
The change in Israeli policy includes exempting all Palestinians over the age of 60 from entry permits to Israel and allowing all men over 40 to attend Friday prayers in Jerusalem with no need for a permit. Extended family members of Israelis are also allowed to enter, as well as children under the age of 12 accompanied by their parents.
‘The moment I entered Israel I was surprised; I felt like I was in Europe. There’s a total difference between the West Bank and Israel’
COGAT has issued 6,000 daily prayer permits this year; 23,500 permits for Friday prayers; and some 150,000 family visitation permits.
“It is our right to be here just as much as it’s the Jews’ right,” said Atef, 17, who makes his living cutting potatoes into french fries for West Bank restaurants. “Our permit says ‘Israel’ on it. This isn’t Israel, it’s our land. Why should you enjoy yourselves while we can’t?”
Back at the Sheraton beach, Jallad of Tulkarem said that, although his permit required him to return home before 10 p.m. and forbade him to work in Israel, he would like to spend another day or two in Tel Aviv trying to earn some money for the upcoming holiday. As a laborer in Tulkarem, he makes NIS 60 a day ($17), of which he gives NIS 50 ($14) to his family. A friend working as a construction worker in Tel Aviv told him that salaries in “the city that never sleeps” could reach NIS 400 ($113) a day.
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