Love in Gaza: When becoming a bride is no longer a joy
The repeated bombing of civilians includes brides. As a woman about to be married, this is terrifying. In May 2021, Israeli fighter pilots killed Shaima Abu Al-Auf. She was about to be married. In May 2023, Dania Adas, another bride, was killed. Although I was not engaged when Shaima was killed, I mourned for her. But when Dania was killed I received the news of her death while Israeli bombs were exploding all around me. The news hit me like a thunderbolt. If I survive, my wedding is planned for this coming July. Dania’s wedding date was also supposed to be in July. We both had reserved a hall for the wedding ceremony. We both bought new clothes, colorful dresses, and home decorations, and rented a beautiful white wedding gown for the ceremony. I wondered if Dania and her fiancé had agreed on the candy and music? They were likely dreaming of their beautiful future together. It’s unbearable to imagine this loss. I always follow the news to make sure no one I know was harmed. I did not know Dania, but felt the pain of her death as if she was family. The Israeli army destroyed her dreams. These thoughts rage in my mind, almost killing me with fear.
I fell in love with my fiancé after the engagement. His sisters who were close friends wanted me to marry their brother, but until he proposed on January 14th, I didn’t know him. He asked my family’s permission to marry me and I told my family I accepted his proposal. In Gaza, women have the right to choose who they marry. They can say no. When a marriage contract is created between a man and a woman, she becomes his legal wife and he becomes her fiancé. But under Islamic law, a husband’s rights are reserved until after the wedding ceremony which is when they are allowed to live together.
Ever since the last Israeli attack on Gaza, I’m afraid of being the next dead bride. I think about this day and night. I’m afraid of losing my fiancé and I’m afraid of creating pain if I am killed. I called Dania’s fiancé to offer my condolences. I wanted to know her story. But her fiancé could not stop crying. “Why did someone kill Dania? What did I do that my life should be taken from me?” I left him crying on the phone. It is unbearable when someone you love dies so tragically.
Fear, panic and madness threaten to overwhelm me. I send constant messages to my fiancé, “I promise we will always be together. Don’t go anywhere. Text me all the time so I will know you are ok.” I knew he couldn’t answer my texts because his phone was at home. I’ve renewed all the promises we made to each other. I agreed to do the ceremony just the way he wanted. I agreed to all his conditions. “The party can take place just like you want. All I ask is that you stay with me. Do not let my joy die.”
My text messages were full of love. My fiancé was not used to this because I am shy by nature. He could not reply because he was at work. I kept busy by spending time with my family which consists of ten people. My married sister, who is nine months pregnant, and her husband came to live with us because they were afraid of the bombs that fell near their house.
Everyone in Gaza has nightmares that an Israeli shell will destroy everything they love. Most of our conversations are about the constant bombing. My sister’s husband was reading news from one of the websites about all the children who were killed. I listened without interrupting him until he started to talk about Dania Adas. My mind then returned to this killed bride.
My mother tried to change the subject by saying, “Come on girls, let’s prepare Nada’s bridal clothes. Every new bride needs and deserves new clothes.” But just then a missile fell in our neighborhood. My sister shouted, “Open the windows. May God protect us.” Everyone knew that opening windows protects them from getting shattered from nearby shelling.
I finally got a signal on my cell phone! My fiancé was connected to the Internet. As soon as he answered, I screamed, “I’ve been so worried.” My fiancé responded, “Are you ok? Is the bombing close to you?” We agreed that neither of us would die before the other. But I know that Dania and her fiancé must have agreed on this as well.
The impact of the recent attack on Gaza has affected me greatly. My bones ache because of the severity of my anxiety. I cannot believe I survived – not only the missiles, but also my painful thoughts. Will I survive the next attack?
When Dania died, she was a bride, like I am now. Immediately following her death, people called to offer condolences. Now she is never mentioned. Will I become the next, along with the thirty-three Palestinians killed in the most recent attack? My 16-year-old brother said, “Thanks to Allah, the losses were not worse,” But I thought of thirty-three bereaved mothers, thirty-three orphans, thirty-three empty beds, thirty-three empty dining chairs, and thirty-three lost stories. Will I someday become a forgotten dead person whose death goes unpunished? Israel violates international law without accountability. I don’t know if the killings of innocent civilians were intentional. But I do know that killing joy in Gaza is ongoing and intentional.
This story was co-published with Palestine Deep Dive.