Mohammad Younes
October 22, 2012 - 12:00am

Ali Batha — from the West Bank — met Rihab Abu Hashish — from the Gaza Strip — while studying at Birzeit University in the West Bank in 2000, and lived a love story that led them to marriage.

However, at the time, this young couple didn't know that Israeli policy is aimed at completely separating the Gaza Strip from the West Bank, and prevents any contact between the two sides, including even marriage.

Ali — who, like Rihab, is 31 years old — told Al-Hayat that Rihab returned to the Gaza Strip when she graduated from university in 2004, and since that time the Israeli authorities have not allowed her to return.

Given that Rihab was banned from entering the West Bank, and Ali from entering Gaza, the two decided to marry in a third location, so they headed to Dubai in 2007, and held the marriage ceremony there. They had hoped that — after providing a legal marriage certificate — the Israeli authorities would allow them to live together in Ali's house in the historic village of Battir in the southern part of the West Bank.

Ali said: "We signed the marriage contact, and went to the [Allenby] bridge (the border crossing between Jordan and the West Bank), and showed the Israelis the marriage contract and our identity cards, but they refused to let Rihab enter with me."

The disappointed couple returned once again to Dubai, and they began working there, waiting for a change that would allow them to live together in their country. However, this did not occur.

As usual, homesickness did not stop knocking at Ali and Rihab's door, so Ali decided to go back to the West Bank and Rihab decided to return to Gaza. Both parties began searching for a way of reuniting in a single home within their homeland.

Ali said bitterly: "I have knocked on every door, but the answer is always the same: It's in the hands of the Israelis."

The Israeli authorities cut off all links between Gaza and the West Bank at the outbreak of the Intifada in 2000, but kept official ties. Following Israel's unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2009, even official ties reached a bare minimum, and the authorities followed a policy of fully separating the strip from the West Bank.

After Hamas gained control of the Gaza Strip by force in 2007, the strip experienced a political and legal reality different from that of the West Bank, which was under Israeli occupation. This only served to deepen the divide between the two parts of the Palestinian homeland.

Ali said: "We found ourselves with only two choices: either to wait, searching for a change that would allow Rihab to enter the West Bank and to live with me, or to search for another nation. However, since living outside one’s homeland is difficult, we have decided to wait."

However, the question facing the couple, who spend their time waiting without mercy is: How long can they wait?


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