Weddings are a cause for celebration everywhere in the world. But for many Palestinians, the festivities help to keep valuable traditions alive and provide a way for them to deal with some of the problems of life under Israeli occupation.
Communication disturbs the Israeli regime. Communication and coexistence do that, whether social, cultural or political.
Despite some of the differences between Muslim and Christian marriage ceremonies, the family – and extended family – plays a pivotal role across the community in matchmaking, organising the wedding day and honouring age-old Palestinian customs and practice.
Some Palestinians see weddings as absolutely key to their way of life, not only preserving a common cultural heritage but also bringing large, disparate families together.
Slaughtering the sheep for the wedding feast, henna nights and shaving the groom in public are all established Palestinian traditions. So are poetry and traditional dabke dance – and they all often combine to produce wedding celebrations involving the whole town or village and can sometimes last an entire week.
But all of these festivities take place in the shadow of checkpoint restrictions and a lack of freedom of movement for Palestinians in both Israel and the Occupied West Bank. These can often disrupt travel, divide extended families and mean not everyone gets to share in what should be a unifying event.
This can make Palestinians all the more determined to maintain their proud traditions which they see as under threat. Weddings can be a form of subtle protest against occupation. As the poet, Moussa Hafed, says, “Gatherings mean nation. Nation means homeland. Homeland means existence.”