Gazans find marriage amid chaos of war

Mass displacement has brought some couples together in challenging circumstances

A couple celebrate their wedding at a camp for displaced Palestinians in Deir Al Balah, in the central Gaza Strip, on February 16, 2024. NurPhoto via Getty Images
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Some Palestinians are choosing to get married in Gaza despite the devastation of 200 days of war, with the mass displacement of people bringing some couples together.

Emad Halawa had been searching for a wife before the war began and is one of many Gazans who has decided to marry despite the circumstances.

"Before the war, I was looking for a suitable girl to marry," he told The National. "My mother visited several houses in search of a match but it wasn't destined for me to get married before the war."

He was working as an electronic programmer when the war broke out in October.

Six of Mr Halawa's family members were subsequently killed, which he said had sapped his will to get married.

But things changed when he met Mona Al Masry, and the couple are soon to get married.

They were brought together amid the mass displacement of about 1.9 million people, more than 85 per cent of the population of Gaza.

200 days of war in Gaza – in pictures

Mr Halawa's mother's friend, who was displaced from Gaza city by the war, visited his family home in Beit Lahia with her 23-year-old daughter Mona, who caught his eye.

"I saw Mona and found her appealing, sparking the thought that she could potentially be a suitable match for me," he said.

Despite the challenging and uncertain situation, Mr Halawa had already made financial preparations for marriage before the war and, after meeting Mona, decided to pursue the goal he had put on hold.

"I asked my mother for permission to propose to Mona," he said. "She was surprised by my request but I explained to her that the war seemed protracted."

Mona accepted his proposal and official documents were arranged to formalise the marriage.

Despite limited resources, they even managed to gather relatives to celebrate their engagement. However, there were no songs, out of respect for the hardships Palestinians are facing.

“Honestly, I never imagined getting married under such circumstances but this is my fate," he said. "Hopefully, our joy will mark the beginning of alleviated burdens."

Mr Halawa and his fiance plan to have their wedding in four months, hoping the war will have ended by then so they can hold a larger ceremony.

Shireen Al Kafarna, 20, had "sky-high" aspirations, with dreams of graduating from university and living independently before the war shattered her plans.

She is one of thousands of displaced people sheltering in schools run by UNRWA, the UN agency working for Palestinian refugees. She is now in Jabalia in Gaza's north, after her home in Beit Hanoun was destroyed.

In an unexpected turn of events, she received a marriage proposal from a displaced man living in the same UN school.

"Initially, I refused because I couldn't picture myself getting engaged under such circumstances," Ms Al Kafarna told The National.

But after talking it through with her family, Ms Kafarna accepted the proposal from Mohammad Qassim, a 26-year-old former schoolteacher from Beit Hanoun who now works as a trader.

Having lost several family members, she said she has been struggling to be happy but is determined to turn this around.

"We held the engagement ceremony inside one of the school classrooms and those around us were delighted with this decision, offering their support and encouragement," she said.

Ms Al Kafarna said she hopes to continue her education after the war ends.

"Mohammad has encouraged me to pursue my dreams," she said. "In the end, the war brought something positive for me and allowed me to meet Mohammad."

Updated: April 23, 2024, 10:25 AM