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Though popular, with some 100,000 visitors in a population of 2 million people in Gaza, the website is not universally liked. Women are not a sack of onions,” says Lina Zein, 25, a single woman from Gaza City, explaining that Wesal felt too transactional in its approach to arranging weddings.
“It limits my ambitions in marriage to someone’s income.” Amal Seyam, the head of Gaza’s Women Affairs Association, an NGO, says the service appeared to have come at an opportune time to take advantage of changes in Gazan society.
“Polygamy has hit high rates in Gaza over the few past years, seemingly due to an increase in people’s religious inclination, especially after Hamas took power in 2007,” says Seyam, referring to the militant group that rules over Gaza.
Marriage rates overall have been on the decline in Gaza, and divorce is on the rise because of high poverty and unemployment rates, says the head of the Supreme Sharia Judicial Council in Gaza, Sheikh Hassan al-Jojo.
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.
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.
Some 1,400 men have been killed in the three wars with Israel since 2008, leaving many widows who would like to remarry.
Tradition, however, can make it difficult for them to wed single men.
The man then has 48 hours to propose, something still typically done over the traditional coffee at her home.
Kholoud Sobouh, 27, said she got tired of being shown to men who knocked on her door with their mothers to propose.