By Melkam Lidet
I usually do not write personal stories but this one is a story that captures the impact of the occupation in the social and personal lives of Palestinians. In an after work chit-chat sometime last week, one of my Palestinian friends turned to me to translate what part of the Arabic conversation was about : one of our colleagues is getting married. The bride to be then said, “You are welcome, but the wedding is in Jordan”. My immediate assumption was of course that her fiancé is from Jordan and when I asked her she said that he’s a Palestinian born in Lebanon and was raised there and in the U.S. Some of his immediate family members are in the UAE and they cannot come to Palestine because they risk entry back to Abu Dhabi after having been to Israel. There were just a lot of countries mentioned in the conversation and I was a bit confused. I gave her a very perplexed look, to which she said, “Neither of us is Jordanian but we have to get married in Jordan so both our families can attend the wedding….that is the life of a Palestinian”. That last line – “that is the life of a Palestinian” stayed with me.
A few days later, I asked my colleague why exactly she was getting married in Jordan when her whole family is in Palestine. So here’s the story: Her fiancé is a Palestinian whose family used to live at the border between Lebanon and Palestine but then fled to Lebanon during the 1948 war. They were not registered refugees but lived in Lebanon for a long time where her fiancé was born and raised. Then they moved to the US and became naturalized American citizens. Some of her fiancé’s brothers and close relatives then started up businesses in the UAE where they currently reside. And here’s where the problem lies.
Because Israel and UAE do not have diplomatic relations, his family would probably be denied entry to the West Bank via Israel which currently has all the entry and exit points of the West Bank. Even if they were allowed entry with their American passports, they would be risking going back to the UAE and might lose their business there. Her fiancé, whom she met in London, can come to Palestine with his US passport but having the wedding in Palestine would mean that most of his family members would not be able to attend. So they would meet each other half way and get married in Jordan. Apparently, this has become a common phenomenon for Palestinians, I heard from other colleagues in the office who mentioned similar stories of their nieces and nephews, friends and sisters.
When I asked my colleague what she feels about getting married in a place that’s not home while home is so close, she said “getting married here in Palestine would have been the best but we were thinking about the best possible solution”. Because her wedding is in Jordan, the tradition of leaving from her parents’ house on the day of the wedding would have to be abandoned. Neither will most of her friends and relatives attend the wedding. She said she’s made peace with that fact, saying “Jordan is the middle ground where some of my family and some of his can be a part of our wedding”. Her mother, who is about to see her third daughter get married in a foreign land is not happy but she’s taking comfort in the opportunity to see her fourth daughter walk out from her own house on the day of her wedding. “She’s already preparing the house for that!” she told me.
This may sound like a romantic story of two love birds trying to beat all odds to get married. Or it may come as a story on globalization where the wedding of two individuals travels around multiple countries. No; this is about how the occupation is not just political but psychological, social, personal and everything else. It’s about how it controls every area of Palestinian life including holy matrimony. It’s about the fate of Palestinians – a people that became stateless and dispersed to make way for the “people without a homeland”.
It’s about the “life of Palestinians” and how they always have to make compromises and take “the best possible solution” because possibilities are always limited for them. When regaining the whole of historical Palestine became impossible, they had to take the “best possible solution” and accept the West Bank and Gaza. When full sovereignty was not possible, they had to settle for an “Authority” because that was “the best possible solution”. When they were denied full UN membership by the UN Security Council, they had to go for “the best possible solution” which is getting a non-member state status. When getting back the agriculturally productive 60% of the West Bank was not possible to revive the economy, they had to settle for “the best possible solution” which was accepting tax advances on their own tax returns collected by Israel. When will Palestinians be able to take more than the “best possible solution” and enjoy the “best solution” there is?
Melkam Lidet is a Writer for the Media and Information Department at the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH). She can be contacted at [email protected]