Some risk sham marriages to obtain European residency for a partner – but the practice can have shattering consequences.
The Samaritans are a tiny ethnic-religious community dating back almost 3,000 years – and they are a population in crisis. But perhaps not for long. Marriage agencies in Ukraine have arranged for more than a dozen women to marry into the Samaritan community in Palestine.
Many Samaritans live in a mountain village near Nablus in the occupied West Bank and face a worrying numbers problem. There are only 800 surviving Samaritans, where once they were counted in their thousands. Men outnumber women by three to one. Their custom is that a young Samaritan man can only marry a woman from within the community if he has a sister who he can offer as a bride in return.
Faced with a fight for survival, a Samaritan religious leader changed the rules to allow Samaritan men to marry women from abroad. While some traditional Samaritans initially resisted the arrival of several Ukrainian brides into this close-knit community, the women are adapting to their new surroundings and providing a population lifeline to this small community.