Youssef Boudlal  P H O T O G R A P H Y 


Wedding under curfew
They are respectively 17 and 22 years old, and a checkpoint divides them. Only  war, bleakness and grief surround them. They were born into this desolation, and  have grown up and met one another in this setting. Their future is impossible to  determine. They have been living under curfew for 89 days. Maysan lives with  her parents in Nablus, while Sliman, ten kilometers away, lives in the village of  Salem. Before the curfew, he was a taxi driver. Now, all he can do is wait and  see what happens next. Despite the poverty, the danger, the curfew, and risk of  terrorist attacks, the young couple has decided to get married, and the wedding  did take place. What does it mean to marry in wartime? The atmosphere is troubled, the joy  tarnished, darkened by desperation. There is no music, no electricity, very few  yodels proffered by the women to encourage the newlywed’s future happiness.  Israeli soldiers surround the village, and the ceremony is held during the day, for  by night it would be too dangerous. About fifteen  friends gather around the  table, no more. All are dressed in ordinary clothing, and only a few car horns  toot to express a smattering of symbolic joy. As if the wedding itself took place  at that very instant, when the about to be wed husband came to get his wife to  be at the other side of the check point... Not a single sound breaks the silence of  members of the wedding as they troop along the gravel path. The soldiers don’t  react when the young newlyweds, hand in hand, stroll by an Israeli tank. Love, a  fragile tie, seems stronger than the conflict, if only for a moment. The young  man’s frozen face seems to indicate that the most difficult moments will come  later. The wedding represents a union, but also a split. By marrying Sliman, Maysam  must break off  from her own family,  her parents and brothers. She does not  know when she will be able to see them again. They are not allowed to leave  their village. Between them stands an invisible wall of uncertainly which is ten  km long. On one side there is celebration, on the other - nothing. Only one half  of  a  party  is  nonetheless  a  celebration,  and  the  protagonists  pretend  that  everyone is  there, that all is  well. Even Sliman’s martyred brother (Chalid) is  there,
his photographic portrait on the rear window of the decorated taxi cab.  The newlyweds get into the car, and make a double lap of honor around the  military zone and checkpoint. The scene seems unreal, even absurd. About fifty meters from the house, the car comes to a stop. The remainder of the  trajectory is made on foot. The couple is greeted with “hurrays” from family,  friends and neighbors. Most of them are women. Outside of the procession, the  streets are deserted. The newlywed husband is immediately jacked up onto his  cousin’s shoulders as the women sing and dance. On the threshold, Maysam  tosses a handful of white flour paste towards the door. If the mixture sticks to the  doorway, it means that the couple will be a happy one and will have children. If  not, the worst is to come. Of course, the doughy substance sticks. The women  pull Maysam upstairs to the first floor, where she discovers their new bedroom  and quarters. The area reserved to the newlyweds measures 20 square meters, a  double bed on a wooden bed base, a wardrobe containing all of the garments  purchased for her by her new husband, as well as a mirror, a small television set and a washroom area.  The group returns to the living room. The newlyweds are seated on a platform.  A musician picks up his  instrument, a darbouka, and the traditional song he  begins to sing soon fills the room. Everyone gathers around the newlyweds with  wishes for peace, proffering congratulations and “many children”, “a good life”  “a life in peace”. A woman walks around the room, showing off the Sliman’s  gift to his new wife. Delicately set on a cushion of white satin lays a gold plated  necklace. There is no display of wealth at this wedding, no opulence. No sheep  has been slaughtered for the festive meal, and only a single course is served: rice  with milk and chicken. The children eat their fill, as do the guests. At least the  war cannot prevent them from enjoying this simple feast.