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Marriage crosses Israel-Syria divide -

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Marriage crosses Israel-Syria divide

AM - Tuesday, 4 January , 2005 08:23:16

Reporter: Mark Willacy

ELEANOR HALL: It's one of the most contentious borders in the world. But a few days ago, a young
woman wearing a bridal gown was allowed to cross from Syria into Israel for her wedding.

Marriage for Druze woman, Nour al-Halaby, has meant giving up her Syrian passport and leaving
behind her family forever.

The Druze community of the Golan Heights was cut in half 38 years ago when Israel occupied the
mountainous territory of Syria.

Middle East Correspondent Mark Willacy reports from the Israel-Syria border.

(Sound of flute)

MARK WILLACY: Walking gingerly through no-man's land a young bride leaves her family for the last
time.

In the white splendour of her wedding dress Nour al-Halaby says a painful goodbye to her sisters
and mother.

(Sound of crying)

Nour's mother Manira puts on a brave face for her 21-year-old daughter.

"How do I feel today? Well my daughter is a bride and that makes me happy", says Manira al-Halaby.

"She's pretty and so too is her groom", she adds.

Straddling the border regions of Israel, Lebanon and Syria, the Druze practice a distinct faith
which is derived from Shia Islam, although most of their religious tenets are kept secret.

When Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in 1967 many Druze families were cut off from
each other.

Hani Zahwee is the Mayor of the Druze village of Buqata.

"It's not comfortable to be separated", he says.

"You saw today a mother whose son is stuck on the other side of the border. In 1967, lots of
families were forced apart", he says.

In no-man's land between two enemy states bride-to-be Nour al-Halaby is united with her fiancé
Isham Zawyi.

For Nour the decision to marry Isham carried with it some painful repercussions.

NOUR AL-HALABY: It's not easy, but you know, I'm happy, I'm not sad. Okay, my original family is
not here, it's there, but it's okay for me. I have all my lovers here.

MARK WILLACY: After an hour farewelling her family Nour al-Halaby moves past the razor wire, UN
soldiers and guardposts and into Israel.

A few hundred metres away on the Syrian side her cousin Maziad reflects on the strange scene.

"I hope we will get peace here, because everyone needs peace", he says.

"War no longer serves anybody, peace is the love that connects people", he adds.

For the Druze of the Golan Heights, war and occupation has torn families and communities apart. And
they will stay that way until Israel and Syria finally end hostilities which have dragged on now
for six decades.

ELEANOR HALL: Middle East Correspondent Mark Willacy reporting.