Tatsiana Hulko

Tatsiana Hulko (Women's Affairs Technical Committee - WATC): Tatsiana graduated from Minsk State Linguistic University in Belarus, her home country, in 2006 with a bachelor's degree in translation and linguistics. Tatsiana also worked with the Belarusian youth magazine CD/Students’ Thought and for a number of Belarusian charities that helped children from the contaminated Chernobyl region. At the time of her fellowship, Tatsiana was studying for a master's degree at Georgetown University, with a concentration in conflict management.

guilty of what?

27 Jun

Guilt is undoubtedly an uncomfortable feeling. Especially if you have I-didn’t-do-anything excuse. However, guilt was exactly what I felt when I told my host family I was traveling to Tel Aviv for the weekend. It was the look in their eyes and the way they wished me a good trip that evoked the sad feeling. For we knew it would be the hottest weekend and I would be the one enjoying the beach. I couldn’t help wondering why it was me, a foreigner, a guest, a tourist who had the privilege of moving freely both in the Palestinian Territories and Israel while Palestinians did not have the right to do the same.

Nobody could pin down the exact date for me when problems with IDs started for Palestinians. Was it after 1948 or 1967 or 1993? All I gathered from talking to people was that now there are Palestinians with green IDs (former orange ones), “VIP” blue IDs, special work permits (lam-shamal) or temporary papers (tasreeh), and Palestinians with no IDs. I am not sure any single person today can grasp the concept of being a nobody. And nor should they!

Now let us see just how easy it is to become a Palestinian nobody. After 1948 Arabs who lived in what came to be Israel received Israeli IDs. Today they are the ones who are allowed to enter Jerusalem and other Israeli cities to live and work there. After 1967 Palestinians who were physically present in the Occupied Territories (West Bank and Gaza) were issued orange IDs. However, many Palestinians were living and working outside at the time. When they wanted to return to their homes and families in the West Bank they found out they were illegals in their own country! These people were forced to live in Jordan or Egypt without the right to return to Palestine. Their only hope was to apply for a green ID, and I wish I could include a couple of successful stories in my current narration.

Can anybody explain to me how and why it became acceptable for a mother with two of her children to live in Ramallah while her husband with three sons stays in Amman and there is no chance for the family to unite? Mind you, this story is not an unfortunate exception. Rather, it would be exceptional to find a happy family reunion.

You can, of course, travel to Palestine with the Jordanian ID and be a tourist in your own homeland. I have been amazed at hearing how many Palestinians risk overstaying their “tourist” permits. One woman told me that for her “it is a choice between life and life.” You can either live legally in a foreign country or you can return home but be a prisoner in your village or town praying you will never encounter an Israeli military jeep or have to pass through a check point, the number of which, by the way, exceeds 500 in just the West Bank. I have come to know people in Ramallah who haven’t seen their families for ten years simply because there is a check point between the de facto Palestinian capital and their native village, which might be only 10 kilometers away.

If you think it’s outrageous to be denied the right to spend a hot day on the Mediterranean Sea or pray in Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, imagine what it must feel like not to be able to leave your town.

And when you return from the trip to the forbidden land do you tell your Palestinian friends how quickly your back burnt and how great the waves were or do you keep silent and allow the nagging feeling of guilt take over you again?

Posted By Tatsiana Hulko

Posted Jun 27th, 2007


  • Pat

    June 28, 2007


    Very interesting commentary. And certainly a personal tragedy for many families. I wonder if you have considered the other side of the story. Balance is always important at determining the root causes of a situation. It will be difficult to work in conflict resolution without understanding the motivations of all parties involved.

  • Mariko

    June 29, 2007


    Hi Tatsiana,

    Thank you for the blog. I feel removed from the conflict, and didn’t realize the extent of the separation that Palestinians face.

  • Marie

    July 3, 2007


    Dear Tatsiana,

    I agree with Mary’s comment above- you are making such a difference in these folks’ lives by just being there. They see your compassion, and your passion! Thanks for doing this- it’s a great service.


  • amali

    July 6, 2007


    Hi Tatsiana,

    I know exactly what you mean about the guilt. I hate the awkward pause and the guilt that washes over me when I mention travel to Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, hell, even in areas of the West Bank that many can’t access. It’s an important issue to write about, and you do it so well.

    Many thanks! And keep up the great work!

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