TAMPA – The Yacoub family is intact – well, mostly.
Six of seven children were home in Lakeland on Friday after being prohibited from boarding an airplane in Tel Aviv, Israel, more than two weeks ago because of their Palestinian heritage.
The last remaining child, 22-year-old Danny, remained in the West Bank, staying with relatives and refusing, his family said Friday afternoon, to bow to Israeli pressure to register as a Palestinian and get a Palestinian passport. All of the Yacoub children – there are 10 – were born in Lakeland and are U.S. citizens. Their mother and father were born in Palestinian territory but moved to the United States 30 years ago and obtained their citizenship more than 20 years ago.
Wedad Yacoub, the matriarch of the large family, flew to Tel Aviv on June 1 with her 10 children to visit family and attend a wedding in the West Bank. They have been making the trip every summer for five years, the family has said, and never had any problems.
On Aug. 18, the Yacoubs hit a snag. When the family tried to board an airplane at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, they were turned away by Israeli authorities who said that because Wedad Yacoub and her husband, Steve, who was not with the family, were born in Palestinian territory, none of the Yacoubs could leave the country without registering as Palestinians.
They were told they all needed to obtain Palestinian passports, even though they were U.S. citizens, said Jamila Baraka, community relations coordinator with the Council on American Islamic Relations, a Muslim advocacy group that is helping the Yacoub family.