Firas Maraghy, a Jerusalem native and current Berlin resident, has been on hunger strike in front of the Israeli Embassy in Berlin since 26 July, demanding Jerusalem residency rights for his baby daughter and the right to keep his own.
Maraghy moved to Berlin in September 2007 after marrying his wife, Wiebke Diehl, a German national. The couple chose to live in Germany so that Diehl could complete her studies. In December 2009 when their daughter Zaynab was born, Maraghy requested that the Israeli Embassy in Berlin enter her name on his documents. His request, however, was denied on 17 April of this year, on the grounds that her mother was German.
The situation is further complicated by the fact that Israel’s Ministry of Interior in Jerusalem also refused to register Firas and Wiebke’s marriage in May of 2009, stating that because Maraghy now lives abroad he has jeopardized his own Jerusalem residency.
“My father was born before the establishment of the State of Israel. My grandfather was born before the Balfour Declaration. And I am going to lose my right to be in Jerusalem just because I have stayed in Germany for a few years?” he said.
Israeli legislation removes resident rights of Jerusalemite Palestinians after an absence of seven years, though Maraghy has lived in Germany for less than two. As a Jerusalemite, Maraghy has neither a Palestinian nor an Israeli passport. He is considered a resident of Israel and has a Jerusalem ID. In May 2009 he was issued a travel permit, valid only until May 2011, on condition that he then return to Jerusalem for a minimum period of 1½ years.
If Maraghy does not return to Jerusalem, he will permanently lose his residency rights and if he does return, he will be forced to abandon his daughter for at least 1½ years. Maraghy does not want to move to Germany permanently, but hopes to be able to bring his daughter and wife to Jerusalem legally, with his daughter living as a resident.
“How can I plan for the future when I need to return to Jerusalem so they don’t revoke my residence? How can I commit to a job here when I don’t know if I can come back the next time I visit? How can I convince my wife to move to Jerusalem with me when she might not be able to leave Israel for four years until she receives permanent resident status?” he asked.
“Ambassador Yoram Ben-Zeev came and spoke with me during the first week,” Maraghy said, speaking about his hunger strike. “He had an offer for me. He said, ‘Let me see what I can do in your case. In the meantime, stop your hunger strike. You can always renew it later.’ I told him, ‘I have a better idea. Try doing what you can; I will continue my hunger strike in the meantime. Maybe this can even help you.'”
The German section of the Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East has sponsored a petition on Firas Maraghy’s behalf. To sign the petition visit: