Muhammad al-Hindi learned the terrible news on Facebook. His fiancée Hadeel Arafa had been killed in an Israeli airstrike.
At first, Muhammad did not believe what he had read. It was only when he got a phone call from Hadeel’s brother that he accepted it was true.
Muhammad was so shocked that he could not speak. He went into a room and wept quietly.
The incident in which Hadeel, 28, was killed occurred on 12 May. Israel fired a missile at her home in the Khan Younis area of Gaza that afternoon.
Hadeel’s mother was also killed.
Muhammad and Hadeel had planned to marry on 16 May. Yet they had to postpone the wedding as Israel launched a major attack on Gaza that month.
They did not know when they postponed it that Hadeel would be a victim of that attack.
“I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her,” said Muhammad. “But she was killed in cold blood before we could get married.”
“I have nothing now”
Several days after his fiancée was killed, another disaster befell Muhammad. His family’s home was also hit in an Israeli airstrike.
The damage caused to the building was immense. An apartment which Muhammad had built – and where he planned to live with Hadeel – was destroyed.
Muhammad is a shop worker earning low wages. He had to borrow money so that he could build and furnish the apartment.
As he has not yet repaid the debts he incurred while building the apartment, Muhammad is not sure how he can raise the money needed to rebuild it.
“The Israeli occupation has destroyed me,” he said. “I have nothing now. No apartment and no wife. I just wish Hadeel was here so that she could ease my pain.”
Walid al-Bitar and Maisaa Abu al-Ouf had also set a date for their wedding. It was supposed to take place on 25 July.
Much of the preparations for the ceremony had already been carried out. Maisaa had bought her dress, makeup and jewelry.
The plans were ruined on 16 May. That was the day when Israel perpetrated a massacre on al-Wihda street in Gaza City, where the Abu Ouf family lived.
Two of Maisaa’s sisters – Shayma and Rawan – were among the many people from their extended family killed in that attack. Their mother Diana al-Yaziji later died from her wounds.
Maisaa had actually gone shopping for her wedding dress with Shayma – who was also engaged – and their mother.
That dress was found under the rubble of the family’s home following the massacre. Maisaa broke down in tears when she saw how the dress was destroyed.
In keeping with local traditions, Walid had given a “bride price” worth approximately $7,000 to Maisaa. It had been used to buy the dress and other items for the wedding.
“The air I breathe”
The couple is conscious that things could have been even worse. Walid regards it as fortunate that Maisaa herself survived the horrors.
“I cannot imagine life without Maisaa,” Walid said. “She is the air I breathe.”
According to Walid, the wedding will still go ahead at some future date.
“Maisaa and I will not let the Israeli occupation steal the joy we will feel when we are married,” he said. “We will have a big wedding when the situation for Maisaa’s family gets better.”
Israel’s May attack may not have been presented as a war against weddings. But it had serious consequences for the planning of numerous marriage ceremonies.
Among the many businesses damaged or destroyed during the attack was one which specialized in selling wedding outfits.
While its May attack was underway, Israel forbade the entry of building materials into Gaza.
The ban has been in place for most of the time since then. It was not until late August that Israel allowed such items as cement, gravel and steel bars to be imported by private companies in Gaza.
Muhammad al-Rayyis is engaged. Yet he and his fiancée have not finalized a wedding date.
Al-Rayyis is building an apartment for them to live in. He began doing so in February yet his work was interrupted by the May attack.
Soon after that attack ended, al-Rayyis tried to find cement, gravel and some other items. Amid Israel’s entry ban, prices of construction materials had doubled.
Al-Rayyis could not afford to buy what he needed. He works in a marketing firm and his wages are only $300 per month.
He and his fiancée had been thinking about getting married in September this year. That plan did not materialize.
The idea of initially living with his fiancée’s family after the wedding had been broached. But her family made it clear that they wished for al-Rayyis to complete the apartment before they got married.
“The situation here does not make sense,” he said. “We should not have to stop building just because the Israeli occupation controls the crossings into Gaza. These are not luxury materials. They are essential. We cannot live without them.”
Khuloud Rabah Sulaiman is a journalist living in Gaza.