A Gaza bride-to-be's dream stolen by Israel's war

A Gaza bride-to-be's dream stolen by Israel's war
A time of celebration became a fight for survival. Through grief and displacement, Tahani Shehada vows to rebuild the life she had before Israel's war on Gaza.
5 min read
22 Feb, 2024
Forced to leave her life behind in search of safety, Tahani Shehada wonders if she will ever get her dream wedding. [Getty]

Everything was ready and planned in every detail. My fiancé Nourdine and I had selected the venue for our wedding celebration scheduled for 14th December, and carefully chosen the home where we would embark on our marital journey and plan our future together.

Like many other girls, I used to dream of a beautiful and sophisticated wedding that would unite me with the man of my dreams.

But when your life is planned in Gaza, fate always has another script in store for you.

With the start of Israel’s war on 7th October, my family and my fiancé's family joined the hundreds of thousands of people forced to leave their homes and moved to the south of Gaza, seeking safety through the chaotic landscape of the bombings.

"Would we ever live in our home that we were building? Will I ever wear the beautiful wedding dress I had chosen?"

This war has robbed me of the chance to celebrate the union I had eagerly anticipated.

The once-united bonds that held us together were strained by the urgency of survival. As we dispersed in different directions, a profound silence settled over our fractured family, disrupted only by the distant thuds of falling bombs.

The separation was a poignant testament to the harsh reality of the war, forcing my loved ones to scatter like leaves in the wind, uncertain of when, or if, we would reunite.

For weeks, I lost contact with Nourdine. During a period of disrupted internet and communication, I was unable to find any means to reach out and ensure his well-being.

The darkest of thoughts began to devour me from within, whispering to me the worst omens, entering the deepest chambers of my mind, uncovering a pain that never, even after a life alternating between wars and traumas, did I thought I could feel.

When we finally did reunite after a 20-day absence, I felt a profound sense of spiritual renewal. I embraced him, drawing him close, and gazed at him with affection, engaging in conversation like a tender-hearted child reunited with a cherished loved one.

Our parents, new Nakba exiles, were in pain thinking of a home they might never see again. A lifetime of sacrifice vanished in a moment. The affection-filled glances between Nourdine and I quickly turned melancholic.

Would we ever live in our home that we were building? Will I ever wear the beautiful wedding dress I had chosen? Will we ever have that life our parents are now regretting?

Is this perhaps the new phase of the Israeli offensive? Destroying our lives before they can even begin? Before a womb can generate? Before a child can become an adult?

It was these very thoughts that were running through my mind when my brother was shot by an Israeli sniper.

My world crumbled again.

Is this the new price set for us? To find one beloved and lose another?

The dreams of a joyous wedding day were replaced by the sombre realisation that my brother, a pillar of support and love, would never witness the transformation of his sister into a radiant bride.

The Israeli occupation cast a long definitive shadow over my aspirations.

In the quiet moments of solitude, the ache for home is a persistent echo in my heart. I miss the familiar embrace of my house, its walls that once echoed with laughter, now replaced by the distant sounds of memories.

"From the ruins of our lives, from the rubble of our cities, we will learn to dream again"

My room, a sanctuary of comfort and solace, is a distant haven I long to return to. The scent of familiarity, the play of light through the curtains, and the quiet hum of everyday life now seem like fragments of a dream, slipping through my fingers.

The fear of the unknown is a shadow that creeps through the corridors of the mind, its presence unsettling and inscrutable. It's a visceral feeling, a knot in the stomach when confronted with paths unseen and destinies uncertain.

The once vibrant streets of Gaza became witnesses to the silent mourning of a girl whose life was forever altered by the merciless hands of Israel.

No, it cannot end like that. This is not the end of our love story, this will not be our destiny.

From the ruins of our lives, from the rubble of our cities, we will learn to dream again.

Nourdine and I will find our new strength. In the face of adversity, we continue to move forward, determined to rebuild what the war had taken away.

This is my commitment, and this will be the real torment of those who want to wipe us out, of those who turn away in the face of the injustice we have been suffering all our lives.

This will be our testament, proof of how much a human soul knows how and wants to remain human, even in the most difficult circumstances.

Though my wedding party may never come, my story echoes the untold struggles of many in war-torn regions.

May these lines be a reminder that behind every statistic of war lies a story, personal and collective of a bride and a people who just want to live in justice, freedom and happiness.

Tahani Shehada is a Palestinian journalist, content writer, and voice over artist based in Gaza. She got BA in English literature from Al -Aqsa University. Tahani works as an editor for a local news agency in Gaza.

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Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.