DEIR ISTIYA, West Bank (AP) — Maha Surougi and Thaer Qasem have lived their entire lives in Syria's largest Palestinian refugee camp on the outskirts of Damascus.
Their first trip to the Palestinian West Bank is the one they will never forget — they went to get married.
Israel maintains a military occupation of the West Bank and strictly controls travel to Palestinian areas of that territory. It also generally bars entry to visitors from Syria and other Middle Eastern countries officially at war with Israel, just as those countries forbid their own residents from visiting Israel.
Exceptions to those travel restrictions are rare. The Palestinian Authority has been able to arrange Israeli entry visas for Palestinian refugees in Syria and Lebanon to visit the West Bank for cultural and sport activities — but only a few dozen visas are granted a year.
In this case, Palestinian authorities helped the young couple get visas so they could transit through Israel, according to the Palestinian commission for education, culture and science.
At the wedding Thursday in the West Bank village of Deir Istiya, female guests were greeted with coffee before a lively procession of women to the wedding venue — a house on loan for the day from a local family. The bride was dressed in traditional Palestinian clothes and a headdress embellished with gold coins.