Tuesday, March 13, 2007
A wedding of no return
Weddings are always emotional. Even more so, if you are attending a Druze wedding in the Golan Heights. The bride, the parents, and all their guests seemed to alternate between bouts of singing and dancing one moment, then crying and shouting the next.

The Druze are an ancient religious community spread out across Lebanon, Syria and Israel. In the case of the Druze of the Golan, the community is separated along the lines of the 1967 war - between Syria and Israeli-occupied territory. On this occasion, Arwad, an Israeli-Druze bride was leaving her family to marry a Syrian-Druze. But because both countries are still technically in a state of war, Arwad will never be able to return home unless Syria and Israel sign a peace agreement.

The wedding takes place on the UN demilitarized zone between Syrian and Israeli forces. It's a bureaucratic nightmare to set up. Wedding permits from both Syria and Israel are needed. Then all the guests and family attending the ceremony need to be cleared for security. The whole process from start to finish takes more than a year. A very long engagement.

But a wedding like this is much more than the union of a husband and wife. It's also an opportunity for Druze to try and reunite with their families across the border - if only for a moment.

When it was time for Arwad to leave, the emotions were too much. Her family swarmed around her, hugging her and giving their last goodbyes. And the media only made things worse, pressing in to record the moment on camera, scribbling in notebooks. Photographers clambered on top of each other to get the crucial shot of the bride walking into the demilitarized zone. Israeli border police shouted at us to calm down, pulling down more than one cameraman who had managed to scale the fence.

Reporters were only allowed to go as far as the border gate while the wedding took place several hundred meters in at the midpoint of the buffer zone. Through the barbed wire, you could see the bride and groom finally together. All around them, people were laughing and hugging, some were crying. These are the lucky ones, guests who were cleared to attend, temporarily reunited with family that live in Syria.

But there were many more who were left behind. At the border fence they jumped up and down, waving to the relatives they could see but not hear or touch. Some called excitedly on their mobile phones. Others broke down in tears begging the Israeli border forces to let them through to see their family. Weddings like this happen only a few times a year. A handful managed to convince the Israeli authorities to let them through for just 5 minutes. Each time someone got through, they would run like mad into the arms of their families.

The whole ceremony lasts for just one hour. The toughest part comes at the end when UN and Red Cross officials step in to separate the families again. Only the bride is allowed to cross into Syria. And once she goes, she can't come back.

I'm not the kind of person who cries at weddings. But I did at this one.

Click here to watch my report

-- From Atika Shubert, CNN International Correspondent
It would be wonderful if the bride could come and go freely but than, Syria had to recognize Israel and peace had to exist. Unfortunately,most Arab countries want Israel to disappear. Why don't you international correspondents ask yourselves why. Why you keep describing these people as poor ones, unfortunate ones... Israel is like a tiny island among them. Why fear some much this David. Is it because the Arabs are the Goliahs?
Thank you for this story. Very well-written.
How sad.
Really, a touchy one.
hank you for sharing this story, it's amazing to me that such things are going on in the world. God bless them, whatever God they pray to.

Than you,
I wonder how the bride and groom have gotten to know each other considering all of the impediments, or was this wedding arranged. I hope there is love there between them so that the pain of familial separation can be lessened. So many areas of the world that need peace....
I have one question. How did the couple end up together if they've been separated by a barbed wire fence for 40 years? One would think that wall would be a big impediment to dating and the rest of the precursors to marriage.
I cried, too. War is hell.
Why do you keep calling it "Israeli-occupied territory"? Israel did not start any wars... you keep pushing pro-Arabic sentiments without any grounds for that.
This is a bitter sweet-story, I wish we could all look beyond, races and Origins and just live along side each other as human Being, I have been to Israel, to that very place, and the Druze are very nice people, I just wish we could all get along
How did we ever let things get this messed up?
Peace and acceptance one person at a time.....keep it going.....
WOW, very touchy story. Bless the families.
Great article and great comments. Some people care about peace.
Excellent story on a tragic situation. Thanks for providing the personal perspective.
If you enjoyed this story, you should see the movie The Syrian Bride. Very well done look at this subject.

As sad as people make it out to be, family members aren't prevented from seeing each other. They just have to meet in a third country.
This story made me cry. I have a little girl and I cant imagine her getting married and me not being able to see her, my son-in-law and grand children ever. Too sad :( Thank you for this story.
Being born in that part of the world and growing up here, I can understand where they are coming from but at the same time I thank God and my parents for deciding to move to the US. Freedom of religion is very valuable where folks here in the US take for granted, yet those in the Middle East are dying to achieve.
At the end of the day, the Middle East crisis is not about the politicians on each side, it is about the people who continue to suffer everyday. Your news report put the human face back into the crisis, and portrayed the reality of life under occupation, a reality that is too often left out of news reports. Thank you for reminding us of that so vividly. Journalism at its best!
It was an arranged marriage. Watch the Israeli film "The Syrian Bride" if you're interested in a reasonably accurate portrayal of one of these types of cross-border Druze marriages.
This exact situation was recently portrayed in a movie called "the Syrain Bride" very very interesting and touching movie.
That's a wonderful story, war really is hell.
Look for the film that came out here in the US last year, I believe: The Syrian Bride. You might think it slow going, but the end is wonderful - and the wedding does not occur in the "no-man's-land" area, but in Syria.
oy, Americans can be so naive...do they think Romeo and Juliet was just a childs play? The Druze are a strange and wonderful people...and yes this was no doubt an arranged marriage. I think folks are looking at this through western eyes. Mazal Tov to them and their families.
Any kind of wedding are beautiful, real sweet-story, but after wedding - its a long-run 100m non stop dash because the other one's eyes always exam. the others, no one could escape, keep doing both love things of no return, please,
its real live,
I too am very curious as to how this couple became engaged, and would love to know more.
Any kind of wedding are beautiful, real sweet-story, but after wedding - its a long-run 100m non stop dash because the other one's eyes always exam. the others, no one could escape, keep doing both love things of no return, please,
its real live,
A very good but sad story. Very well-written too.
Let's hope that there is some peace in our time. There are so many open wounds in that part of the world. Thanks for the story.
Thank you for this perceptive and touching story. It is truly representative of the ordeal of the Syrian Golan citizens under Israeli occupation.I would like you please to visit some Palestinian families who are now seperated in the same brutal way by the Israel Apartheid Wall newly built on occupied Palestinian territory.
Your story is a master stroke at describing the harsh reality endured by citizenz in the Israeli occupied Golan. Thank you.
One of your commentators above compared Israel to David, and the Arab countries around it to Goliath. I think the right comparison should be between the real Goliath(Israel) and the real David (The oppressed Palestinian children of the Intifada). Your commentator seems to be forgetful of the fact that Israel, though small in size, is the second world military power, enjoying too the blind support of the USA and many other Western countries, against the powerless Philistines.
Americans make way, way too big a deal of "Weddings" and not enough of a "Marriage". We really have nothing to compare this to. We don't have arranged marriages either. Talk to me about how she is treated by her new family or how her family treated her (in relation to the males) growing up. If it is an arranged marriage, her parents picked this plight for her anyway...
Its a very sad thing. But I thank my lucky stars that I live in America. I don't think people relize how some communties in other countries really are. And we Americans don't know what we have sometimes until you see and read something like this. So America don't complain about all things we don't have because honey we have a lot more then others.
I thought Israel was a democratic country with western values.
I'm an American Druze - born and raised(yes there are quite a few of us here in the US) and it is unfortunate that the political situation in that region is as it is. Druze, Jews, Christians and Muslims used to live in Peace for centuries before recent conflicts. The reason marriages like this occur is b/c at one point in time, these families were living in what was considered the same region. It is only recent history that has divided this area - keep that in mind for those of you who are confused as to how this union came to be. PS the Druze are a wonderful people who are probably the only religion that gets along with everyone (Jews, Muslims, Christians) in that region and are caught in the middle of the chaos.
God created free and beautiful world but man made it a place of restriction and hatred.Whata self imposed emotional pain.
Heart wrenching story..Thank you..

To the commentator from Brazil (These People?)
Is that a reference to the 1.5 million Palestinian Arab civilians who are being isolated from the rest of the world? Isolated by a policy of hatred, racism, and violation of human rights? This is not a struggle of equals, but rather a military Israeli occupation of a society, a culture regarded as of a lesser value. So, what is there to do? Expect "these people" to sing; we shall over-come.. and march with pink carnations?..You are asking; "Why describe these people as unfortunate ones.."? What planet are you from? These same people (Arabs) been living in that part of the world for centuries! These people are not just unfortunate, they are victims.
thank you for the story. war is hell. just think how happy and blessed we are to live in free democratic countries, to enjoy the freedoms we got... a lot of people don't realize that. it's just sad.
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