What it means to love under apartheid

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Valentine’s day is right around the corner and for many around the world, it’s a time to embrace the loved ones, the husbands and wives, the mothers and fathers, the sisters and brothers, the new friends and the old. But under Israel’s apartheid regime, there can’t be any of that. It’s against the law. It’s a demographic threat.

To highlight just how Israel’s segregationist policies affect the lives of everyday Palestinians, a team of socially-conscious community leaders headed by our very own Tanya Keilani launched a new project called “Love Under Apartheid“. The website features stories of Palestinians at home and abroad whose love lives, be it with their families or friends, have been forced to circumnavigate Israeli watchtowers and race-based ID checks. Sirene, for example, is a Palestinian citizen of Israel who fears she’ll be unable to visit her fiancé in Gaza.

Like most Palestinians, Israel’s policies have taken a negative toll on my ability to express my love, too. Rarely am I able to visit my family members in Gaza — to hug my aunts and uncles — since the borders are sealed to me. Finding a wife in the West Bank is virtually out of the picture seeing that, as a Gazan, Israeli authorities won’t let me through the checkpoints. “You have no reason to be here,” said a soldier to my family as we tried to visit the West Bank once in 2000.

But I’ve got it easy. Just eight months ago, my mother, sister, and I spent two full days at the Rafah border crossing waiting for Egyptian authorities to consult with Israeli authorities over how many Palestinians to, essentially, set free. There we met a young woman who had been waiting under the sun for at least three days. Her wedding in Cairo was fast approaching and her wedding dress, tucked away near her luggage, was getting dusty. We waited together up until the day of her marriage. She was just hours away from becoming a wife, hours away from her fiancé and his family in Cairo.

Luckily, and thankfully, she was allowed through. She may have been late to her own wedding, but at least she was given an opportunity to do what hundreds if not thousands of Palestinians only dream about doing. Others, wedding dress and all, have resorted to traveling through the tunnels dug underneath Gaza’s borders. But not all of them make it out.

So while you buy your mother a rose or send a box of chocolates to that awkward boy who sits behind you in class, think about the walls, the laws, and the checkpoints Palestinians are forced to deal with whenever they try to do the same.

Click here to watch the promotional video for the Love Under Apartheid project. And click here to learn more. When tweeting about the project, please use the hashtag #LoveUnderApartheid which trended worldwide in less than four minutes.

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