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Sunday, April 15, 2007
Star-crossed lovers
And I thought my romance was complicated...
Star-crossed lovers quit West Bank
By Matthew Price
BBC News, Jerusalem

She is a 26-year-old Jewish Israeli. Her name is Jasmine Avissar. He is a 27-year-old Palestinian Muslim, Osama Zaatar. Jasmine and Osama's is a love story, and it tells you so much about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

They met when they worked at the same place in Jerusalem, and three years ago they got married. First they tried to live in Israel, but the Israeli authorities would not allow Osama to join his wife there. Then they tried living in the occupied West Bank, but some Palestinians made life difficult for them. Now they've given up and are moving to Europe.


"We ran out of choices of finding any solution to live in either Israel or Palestine," says Jasmine as she packs her bags. "We were naive and thought we could win this fight but we can't. So we have to go abroad and start a new life."

Jasmine already has permission to go. Osama hopes to follow her soon.

We go up onto the roof of their village home. The sunlight is so harsh you have to squint to look at the view. Stone walls hold earth terraces onto the hillsides, olive trees hundreds of years old are dotted across the landscape.

"I feel like a stranger here," says Osama. "Even in my homeland. This place is a holy land, but they're killing each other. It's like it's already a lost cause. Here there's no chance. I just want to start again."

Under investigation

They are an almost unique couple.

Neither Israeli nor Palestinian society has accepted their marriage.

On official Israeli documents, Jasmine tells me her marital status is described as "under investigation". "Our marriage was a human thing. We just fell in love," says Jasmine. "The society around us is making it political."

"I feel like a refugee. The moment I decided not to be part of the mainstream I was told that I was not a part of my country anymore," says Osama.

A taxi turns up, and Osama helps Jasmine with her bags. The drive takes them through occupied Palestinian lands. They pass a tall grey Israeli army watchtower. They drive through army checkpoints. Israel has been in control here for almost 40 years.

Given up

"Even here in Osama's homeland I am superior as an Israeli," says Jasmine, as she looks out the window. "It's easier for me to move around. The soldiers let me through checkpoints. They don't arrest me like they might arrest Osama."

Jasmine has given up on her own country.

"Jewish people were abused for thousands of years, but my nation has switched from being victims to being abusers. That's hard for me to acknowledge. The Jewish people are occupiers now, and we are racist."

The car arrives at a final checkpoint.

We stand next to it, and Osama tells me why he has also given up on his own people. "There were threats. People said if I brought my wife here we'd be in danger. Even my friends said that. They say I am a traitor."

"It makes me wonder whether I want to be a Palestinian any more. Some see me as some sort of Israeli envoy. It's a shit feeling."

Seeking safety

They turn and walk the short distance to the checkpoint that leads out of the West Bank and into Israel. They put down their bags, and hug one another. There's a short kiss.

I ask Osama what he hopes for from his new life.

"I want to be able to walk in the street and not be stopped by the Israeli army or police. I want to feel safe. I have never felt that."

Jasmine smiles. "I just want to be a normal couple, with normal problems about rent, and money. I don't want to have these huge gigantic problems interfering in our marriage."

Even now though they are not quite free.

Osama cannot go through the checkpoint with Jasmine. They don't know when he will be able to join her in Europe.

They are still a couple caught in the middle of the Israeli Palestinian conflict.
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 8:31 PM
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Who: Carmen

xx-something egyptia-yorker who's spent over half her life stuck in two worlds not of her own making. unable and unwilling to fully embrace one identity over the other, she created (is trying to create) her own place in the world where people love each other unconditionally, irrespective of artificial boundaries, and where dancing merengue is as necessary to life as breathing air.

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