Traditionally, the polite way for a groom’s family to signal a proposal request is to ask to go to the bride’s family’s house for a cup of coffee.With the Wesal service, a prospective groom receives a woman’s address when the two have exchanged “likes” online.He was looking for a woman with particular attributes, hopefully a widow of a man killed in the struggle against Israel, without children, between 25 and 30, from southern Gaza. “She is beautiful and a widow of a martyr at the same time,” says Abu Mustafa, using the word preferred by Palestinians for a killed fighter, often a terrorist to Israelis. “When I get wealthy, I will marry the third wife.” The couple met on Wesal – it means communion or reunion in Arabic – a first-of-its-kind matchmaking website in Gaza. For Majdi and Ghada Abu Mustafa, their simultaneous search for a spouse turned out well, and the pair are now married.When completing an application, people must address several questions important to those looking for a spouse here: place of residence, occupation, salary, marital status, number of children.And there are some traditional terms users must accept: “I swear by Allah the Great that all my information is accurate, and that I won’t use this website for entertainment.” What Wesal does not have is profile photos or any online chatting functionality, to protect the privacy of women and because both would be considered “haram,” or forbidden under Islamic law, Sheikha said.
“This matchmaking service is positive because it encourages these women to choose the potential husband without fear and pressure in this religious and patriarchal society,” says Owda.
Wesal not only facilitates marriages for widows, but also for the divorced and those who have never married.
Part of Wesal’s immediate success appears to be how closely it hews to Gazan tradition, despite the digital medium.
Abu Mustafa, 34, a maths teacher, said he had no specific reasons to get married again, but said he did wish to give “dignity” to a widow. Women stay alive,” says the site’s founder, Hashem Sheikha.
His wife’s first husband died during the conflict between Hamas and Israel in 2012. “This is why my project supports polygamy.” Sheikha, a Palestinian born in Saudi Arabia, says the site has led to 160 weddings since it started in March.