Druse bride crosses from Israel into Syria for wedding, not allowed to return
QUNEITRA, Golan Heights: A misty-eyed bride waved goodbye to the family she was leaving behind Wednesday, as she stared across the sun-scorched pavement toward her husband and new life in Syria.
Then Waed Munzer, 26, a Druse from the village of Ein Qeinya in the Israel-controlled Golan Heights, walked across the Quneitra border crossing to marry her cousin in a rare moment when the heavily guarded Israeli-Syrian border was opened.
Reflecting the animosity between the two countries — the bride is not allowed to go back to Israel.
Tensions have increased this month after reports of an Israeli airstrike in northern Syria. Foreign media say the Israeli target was either arms meant for Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon or a joint Syrian-North Korean nuclear project. Syria has denied both while acknowledging the strike, but Israel has refused to comment.
"I'm happy and I'm sad," said the camera-shy Munzer in her wedding finery, as her brother ushered her toward the Syrian border. "There'll be no return."
She and the few family members who accompanied her joined other relatives and friends in the U.N. supervised demilitarized zone between the two countries for an hourlong celebration and farewell. The wedding is scheduled for Friday in Syria.
The Druse religion is an offshoot of Islam that keeps its tenants of faith secret. Israel's 1967 capture of the Golan split the Druse community between Syria and Israel, dividing families and friends. Other Druse live in nearby Lebanon.
The husband, Majd Munzer, 30, who comes from the village of Raha in southern Syria, said he met his bride at a wedding he attended last October at a U.N-supervised demilitarized zone on the border. He proposed to her that same day.
Since then, she has been calling him on the phone. He, however, cannot call her.
In 1993, Israel opened a one-way telephone with Syria in the Golan, where some 20,000 Druse live. Syrians can communicate with relatives across the border only with loudhailers in an area known as the "shouting valley."
The border passage is also one way. Waed Munzer said she had to sign a document saying she would not return to Israel, ever.
"She'll only be able to return if there's peace," said her brother. "Even then, she'll only be a visitor."
Israel allowed 16 members of the bride's family to join the celebration on the pavement between the borders, giving them a rare opportunity see some family and friends for the first time in years.
"I am still hopeful that peace talks between Israel and Syria will resume soon," Majd Munzer said, adding "so that the Golan would return to us and families on both sides of the border reunite."
The wedding-farewell ceremonies take place about once a year at the border. An award-winning 2004 Israeli movie, "The Syrian Bride," chronicled the conflicting emotions involved.
Israel annexed the Golan Heights in 1981, but the move has won no international recognition. Syria demands return of the territory.
The crisis over the reported airstrike did not jeopardize the wedding, said Paul Conneally, deputy head of the delegation for the International Committee of the Red Cross. "This represents a positive and humanitarian event," he said. The Red Cross has orchestrated more than 150 cross-border weddings since 1983.
EXCUSE ME, you say "This represents a positive and humanitarian event, The Red Cross has orchestrated more than 150 cross-border weddings since 1983.
That breaks down to 6.2 such weddings such as this one per year!! It is ALSO 150 who cannot return to their families in the occupied Golan Heights-occupied for FORTY YEARS. You call this "humanitarian"? Just HOW is this "humanitarian" when she had to sign a document saying she would NEVER seek to go home where she was BORN?!!!
Below is the movie, "The Syrian Bride" It is in segments, in Arabic, with English subtitles.