Marriage is an important step in the lives of young people. Traditions and rituals differ between one place and another, and perhaps even between one person and another. In Gaza, society is mostly conservative and has kept some of its old customs and traditional marriage, or what is called the “salons marriage”.
In this tradition, the mother of the prospective groom, would go around looking for a suitable bride who fits her standards. With changes taking place in the world, marriage has now mostly come to be between two people who already know each other either through university, work, or even social media.
While this is common among young people, it is still not usually public. Kisses would be exchanged in secret via phone before sleeping, as a way to express love. Society in Gaza mostly rejects these relations being public, as they are often considered taboo.
Khataba Net (engagement net) is the title of a page on Facebook that has become quite popular though still controversial.
“30 year old woman, 173cm, 80kg, fair skin, hazel eyes, school teacher, educated with a diploma in education, looking for a divorcee from the Gaza strip.”
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“25 year old woman, fair skin, Bachelor in Business and English language, 155cm, works in a private online company, earns 300$ a month, looking for someone who appreciates domestic life.”
Men and women send their descriptions or what they are seeking in their prospective partner, to the page admins who post them on the wall. And then you wait for answers and reactions.
Magida, the page admin, who calls herself Om Mohammed, says that “the difficult economic and social conditions in Gaza pushed young people to renounce marriage, while at the same time divorce rates are growing and breaking up families.”
Om Mohammed explains that the idea of the page “was to help bring people closer to each other, and alleviate the complicated conditions of marriage imposed by parents. For instance, some suggestions that we get on the page are about reducing the financial and social conditions imposed by parents.”
For the page admin, this is a small project she runs with some of her friends, and she gets 500 Shekels (130$) for each brokered marriage. She tries to mediate between families, and bring them closer to an agreement.
Om Mohammed explains that the demands she gets on the page are diverse: “Women usually look for a decent partner, who appreciates domestic life, has a steady income, even if low. The people who use the page are mostly above 25. People in the Gaza strip often consider a woman who has passed 25 as being in the danger zone, especially if she does not have a diploma, or a job.”
On the other hand, most men according to Om Mohammed “prefer someone with a job, rather than beauty, especially when there are so few job opportunities” because of the political situation and the decade long siege.
Dr. Ahmed Sahwil, a relationship specialist explains that “Gazan society is a closed one, so no successful model from elsewhere can be simply imposed there. Marriage in the Gaza strip usually requires the approval of the family, especially the mother of the groom, who usually has the right to choose the partner she deems suitable for her son.”
In this sense, for Sahwil, “any relation that takes place outside of those norms is secretive until the date of the marriage. It is not yet widely accepted in society that marriage happens online. So you see women talking during a wedding while parents are ashamed.”
The page is still unique in Gaza, and attracts only around 5000 people for now because of the refusal that the page faces in general. Reading the comments one notices that most are critical of the page, and see the posts as some kind of marketing.