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Gaza-Jordan: mother and daughter reunited after ten years of pain

19-05-2010 Feature

As part of the ICRC’s standing efforts to restore family links between relatives separated by conflict, it recently brought an ageing mother from Gaza to live with her daughter in Amman, in Jordan, after ten years apart.

   
©ICRC/A.Muhanna 
 
ICRC staff check Hajjeh Moazzaz’s travel documents before leaving Gaza. 
   

   
©ICRC/A.Muhanna 
 
The corridor leading to Erez crossing point linking Gaza with Israel. 
   

   
©ICRC/R.Afani 
 
The moment Sabah and her mother met after ten years of separation. 
      

She looked through the window, breathing lightly and smiling quietly to herself. The sun was shining in Gaza when Hajjeh Moazzaz Aldabba finished packing her belongings into her small suitcase. That morning, the feelings of uncertainty and anguish which had haunted her for years vanished in a flash when her niece Nimah told her: “Aunty…the people from the Red Cross just arrived, they are waiting for you in the car. They are ready to take you to Amman to see Sabah today.”

Life hasn't been easy for Hajjeh Moazzaz these past years. Sabah, her only daughter, was a teenager when she left her mother’s home in Gaza and moved with her father to Amman, where she married at the age of 18. 

At the beginning, Hajjeh Moazzaz saw Sabah every year, either making the journey to Amman or having her daughter come to Gaza. But the Israeli authorities suspended these visits in 2000, following the outbreak of the second Intifada.

 

 Health declining      

Hajjeh Moazzaz, who is over 80 years old, had become too weak to live on her own. She moved in with her brother Ali but he died a year later. During the past decade her only contact with her daughter was by phone. “My health was getting worse. I wanted to spend the last days of my life surrounded by the voices of my grandchildren. I would not die in peace without being close to them and to my beloved daugh ter,” she says.

After several unsuccessful attempts to get her mother a permit to leave Gaza, Sabah finally contacted the ICRC in Amman in February 2010 and asked for help to reunite her with her mother as soon as possible.

The ICRC agreed to make all the permit requests and to coordinate Hajjeh Moazzaz's transfer with the Palestinian, Israeli and Jordanian authorities. " Elderly people and children are a priority for the ICRC, which does everything possible to reunite people separated by conflict,” explains Veronika Hinz Gugliuzza, the ICRC's tracing coordinator in Jerusalem.

 Challenging journey  

    

Once in the ICRC car, the stoic Hajjeh Moazzaz faced a challenging day-long journey, complicated by the political and security realities of the region. First she had to pass through the Erez crossing from Gaza into Israel, which involved being pushed in a wheelchair by an ICRC field officer along a 1.5km security corridor. At the Israeli checkpoint Hajjeh Moazzaz had to be searched manually.

Then it was back into an ICRC car for the drive to Jericho, for the final administrative procedures – Palestinian and Israeli – before heading for the King Hussein (formerly Allenby) bridge, linking the West Bank and Jordan. Anne-Sophie Bonnet, the ICRC delegate accompanying Hajjeh Moazzaz on this epic journey, says the elderly woman could hardly contain her amazement at everything she saw along the way.

While making her way over King Hussein Bridge, just before being reunited with her daughter, Hajjeh Moazzaz arranged her headscarf delicately and, with joy in her eyes, said softly: " I have dreamt about this day every minute of the past ten years. "

 

 Emotional reunion      

She felt weak and tired once they finally crossed the bridge and her hands were shaking. She was trying to catch a glimpse of her daughter among the crowd when suddenly she saw her, rushing anxiously towards the ICRC car. Sabah grabbed and kissed her mother's hand. " I had butterflies in my stomach the minute I saw the car crossing the bridge, I couldn’t wait to hold her, " she said tearfully. 

When they arrived at Sabah's home, all of her children and grandchildren were waiting outside. They had put on their best clothes to celebrate this important moment.

" I have ten children and four grandchildren,” says Sabah. “My mother had seen only five of my children - and none of the grandchildren! I had to wait ten years to hug her again. Being reunited with her means the world to me. I will not spend one second away from her now - not one! "