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From the field

Testimony: Israel prevents Gaza Christian and his Bethlehem fiancée from marrying, December 2009

'Issa Missak, owner of a clothing store

'Issa Missak

I live with my sister in the Tel al-Hawa section of Gaza. For 15 years, I've had a clothing store in the center of the city.

I am Christian, and every Christmas and Easter I go with people from the Christian community in the city to the Church of the Nativity, in Bethlehem, to pray and take part in the festivities. The church in Gaza arranges our trip through the Palestinian civilian liaison office, which requests Israeli officials to issue us the relevant permits. We go via Erez Checkpoint to Bethlehem, pray, visit the holy places, participate in ceremonies, stay a few days to visit relatives and friends, and then return to Gaza. It calms me and makes me happy. The trip also breaks my high-pressure and exhausting daily routine. It is like a trip in a quiet and healthy atmosphere.

Two years ago, on one of my visits in Bethlehem, I met through friends a young Christian woman from the city. I sat and spoke with her a few times and found that we had lots in common, and that we were compatible in many things. I felt she was going to be my life-mate forever. She captured my heart and I fell in love with her, which gave me a pleasant feeling.

On 28 December 2008, while I was in Bethlehem for Christmas, we became engaged and decided to get married in April 2009.

With the wedding day approaching, I submitted to the Palestinian liaison office in Gaza a request for permits for me and my sister Hanadi. Only she received a permit. Mine was rejected and I couldn't get to Bethlehem to complete the preparations for the wedding. I submitted a request to enable my fiancée to come to me in Gaza, so that we could marry here. She and her mother received a permit to enter Israel, but not Gaza. Despite the refusal, they went to Erez Checkpoint, but weren't allowed to enter Gaza. In October 2009, my fiancée and her family again submitted a request to enter Gaza so that we could have the marriage ceremony here.

I ordered everything needed for the ceremony, from the invitations to the clothes. My friends and relatives were waiting to take part in our wedding, but Israel refused their request.  Not even the intervention of the church helped. Due to the blockade on Gaza, nobody receives permits. It is impossible to exit or enter.

The situation leaves me with a feeling of tension and anticipation. I'm afraid they won't let my fiancée enter Gaza and won't let me go to Bethlehem, and I don't know if we'll ever be able to marry. The Christian community in Gaza is very small, and there are almost no young women. I don't have much of a chance to get married here.

All we want to do is get married, to live a quiet life and raise children.

‘Issa Admon Diran Misak, 37, lives in Gaza City and has a clothing store. He gave his testimony to Muhammad Sabah on 11 November 2009 at the witness's shop.