Eywitness report: wedding day in Bethlehem

 I looked after the children for the first hour and a half that the curfew was lifted, so that Nahida, my wife, could buy food. When she got back, I went to the city centre to get some photos developed. But I could not find a single photographer. They had all rushed out - not to get food - but because a large number of weddings were happening at the same time. It is amazing how such an important occasion can be squeezed in such a short time. Ten couples got married today - between ten in the morning and two in the afternoon. A cousin of mine, who was engaged for two years, was one of the newly-weds. Both families, anxiously watched the news to find when people would be allowed out of their homes. Some stayed up all night to spread the good news. Two years of planning and preparing would then be compressed into a mere few hours. At exactly 11am, Ramzy and Niveen stood at the alter in front of the priest at the Nativity Church in Bethlehem, standing over the grotto that gave refuge to Our Lord 2002 years ago, married in 40 minutes, posed for photos in 20, rushed to the reception in 10, greeted more than 400 guests in 30 minutes and were back home in the remaining half hour. I remember the day I got married seven years ago. Back then, we had a month to prepare and it was exhausting. The wedding day was a full 24-hour ceremony and we felt we needed more. This couple had three hours to be happy, two hours to share their new life with their families, one hour to bid celibacy goodbye, half an hour to cry, and then the rest of the day, and maybe the coming three days, to meditate on this fast track, high pressure wedding under curfew. I hope they remembered to get some food supplies to last them the rest of the week!! The tanks start roaming the streets at exactly 2pm. Anyone still in the street would be stopped and strip-searched. The recent policies and measures that have been implemented by the Israelis have no value or justification, in my point of view, regardless of the many think tanks and politicians that justify the brutality. Many of supporters claim that these policies are the essence of democratization and the preserving of human lives, or in other words, it is a preventive measure against enemies of life and peace. Security precautions are justified so that life on one side can continue in peace. Children of one side will feel at ease during their summer vacation while the other side has to endure and sweat in their enclosed rooms. Beaches on one side are swamped with summer vacationers, surfers and sun tanners, while the other side can look at the beach from a distance and fantasize how it felt to swim in the good old days. We are told that the Israelis will allow us another five hours tomorrow. I will try to get the photos developed but I know that many weddings are happening tomorrow too! In Christ, George (A Palestinian Christian)

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