How an Israeli ban on Gazans moving to the West Bank has kept a married couple apart for the past three years

Rashid and Dalia's wedding was in 2012, but Dalia is in Gaza and cannot join him in the occupied territory

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The Independent Online

Rashid Faddah thought that the modest apartment he bought in his hometown of Nablus to live in with his bride, Dalia Shurrab, would be a cosy place to begin raising a family. But three years later Dalia has never even been there.

She is stuck in her hometown of Khan Yunis in the Gaza Strip, unable to relocate to Nablus and start her married life because of an Israeli ban on Gazans moving to the occupied West Bank. Israel says the policy, which officials date to 2007, is a response to the seizure of Gaza by Hamas, which they consider a terrorist organisation. Thousands of Palestinians are unable to reunite with their family, including spouses, in the West Bank. “Friends tell me ‘couldn’t you find someone to marry who is not from Gaza?’” Rashid, 35, says. “I tell them that Dalia is the person I chose.”

The launch by Dalia’s friends of a Facebook page has had an enthusiastic response in the Arab world. Dalia says the page has received more than 40,000 views, and she’s been inundated with messages, encouraging her to continue the relationship.

Their romance began in 2011. Rashid at one point voiced willingness to move to the war-devastated and dangerous coastal enclave, but he says Dalia was against it, firstly for security reasons but also because he would be probably be unemployed in Gaza.

 

The two were both part of a youth exchange programme four years ago that brought participants together in Nablus. When Dalia, now 32, couldn’t come because of travel and visa rebuffs from Israel and Jordan, they developed a friendship over the internet. “We started talking in a group and then privately and discovered we have a lot in common,” Rashid recalls.

They decided to meet each other in Jordan, where each has an aunt who could chaperone. “This is when we became serious. I called her parents in Gaza and asked for permission to marry her.” Asked what the attraction was, Rashid says: “She is intelligent, funny, lovely, educated and has ambitions. And she is kind.”

“What made me love him is that he treated me differently than any other man,” says Dalia. “He respected my mind, hobbies and dreams. He didn’t make me feel fat or ugly like society likes to label overweight people. He saw me as a beautiful and special person.”

Rashid’s father accompanied him on a visit to Gaza in 2012 to sign the marriage contract. They had to travel through Jordan and Egypt because of Israeli travel strictures. The well-connected mayor of Nablus, Ghassan Shaka, told Rashid’s family that it would be a matter of a few months until his bride could be brought over. Three years, and what Rashid says have been 20 applications later, and the couple are no closer to being together.

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