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Love in the Time of Coronavirus (with VIDEO REPORT)

At Palestinian weddings, hand sanitizers are now the centerpiece at the table

For two years, Rawan and her fiancé, Ammar, meticulously planned their dream wedding.

In their village of Irtas, near Bethlehem in the West Bank, they sat together for long hours thinking about the date. They talked about the elaborate menu, full of Palestinian food to be cooked by sisters and cousins; the massive roster of guests, with relatives coming from places as far away as the United States; and the music list, arranged with a DJ all the way down to the slow song the bride and groom would dance to.

Then came coronavirus.

The global pandemic, reaching the Palestinian territories, has forced untold numbers of people to change their plans.

“It is a sad feeling that not everyone is with us,” Rawan told The Media Line.

She adds that Ammar lost his job in Israel because of strict curfews on both sides of the border, as well as orders that nonessential businesses be closed. She says the lack of income compelled them to make many sacrifices.

“Our financial situation does not allow us to book a wedding hall, so we chose this day,” she said.

The PA declared a state of emergency in early March, followed by another one, even more severe, a month later, restricting movement and closing wedding halls.

The latter decision sent many couples who had been planning summer weddings scrambling to get hitched quickly. Rawan and Ammar, coming to the realization that their wedding date was no longer an option, feared that they might not be able to get married at all.

Sabrin, Rawan’s sister, said the family felt bad.

“It is a sad feeling, first, because her wedding is not what she wanted it to be, and not all of our sisters, aunts and uncles are present,” Sabrin told The Media Line. “They planned it for two years.”

Khawlah, their mother, resigned herself to reality.

“I understand her decision,” Khawlah tells The Media Line, referring to Rawan.

“Every mother wants her daughter to be happy. I wanted to see everyone attend her wedding and share the joyful event with us,” she said. “But praise be to God, the circumstances are stronger than us.”

In Gaza, Samer and his fiancée, Aroub, had planned their wedding for August, but the fast-moving coronavirus instilled in them a sense of urgency. They limited the ceremony and celebration to immediate relatives.

Samer’s mother, Suhair, told The Media Line that she had waited a long time to celebrate her son’s wedding.

“We are very upset, especially as he is my eldest son and the first one to get married,” Suhair explained. “As any mother feels in this situation, I do not feel the joy is complete. I feel a lump, but I try to hide it so no one gets annoyed.”

It should have been a gathering for large crowds, everyone kissing and hugging, dancing and eating. Instead, it was overtaken by the need for social distancing, which Samer’s father, Sa’ed, said was necessary to protect everyone’s health.

“All this is being done for the safety of the people,” he told The Media Line.

“Normally,” he continued, “our weddings last for seven nights and we rejoice with our guests. We reduced this to a very simple ceremony.”

As public health officials warn of prolonged restrictions on large gatherings, more and more couples appear set to abandon dreams of an extravaganza, looking only to get hitched – and soon.