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Ahlam And Nezar, A Palestinian Couple Released In The Prisoner Exchange

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The Media Line  reports on Ahlam's story of the letters, an account she presented "with a broad smile and a sparkle in her eyes."

Now that they have been released in the October 18 prisoner exchange, Ahlam and Nezar want to somehow have a "big wedding -- as soon as they can finally see each other."

Their formal marriage came in August, 2005. The fathers of Ahlam and Nezar arranged the necessary marriage documents and sent the couple copies of the marriage contract. Ahlam reports that Nezar sent her wedding rings but Israeli prison administration officials "confiscated them all."

The first personal meeting the couple had after their marriage, came five years later, in March, 2010, when Israeli intelligence officers questioned them, together, "about the relationship between them and their future plans."  (This meeting suggests that, at the time, Israel was evaluating potential prisoners for a swap for Sergeant Gilad Shalit)

When Ahlam and Nezar were released on October 18, the IDF -- not-so-helpfully -- sent the couple to different locations. Nezar returned to a joyous hero's reception in his home village of Al-Nabi Saleh, a farming center, where his extended family still lives.

Al-Nabi Saleh (The Prophet Samuel) is an Arab village in a valley nestled next to a hill on which a Jordanian Taggert Fort once stood. This particular fort was part of a chain on forts the British built in Palestine during their Mandate period. The fort had been abandoned until October, 1977, when Prime Minister Menachin Begin allowed The Gush Emunim (bloc of the faithful), an orthodox Jewish group, to establish a settlement on the hill overlooking Al-Nabi Saleh.

Since his return from a meeting with President Jimmy Carter in the summer of 1977, Begin had allowed six Gush Emunim settlements to move into the West Bank, violating an earlier promise Begin had made to Carter. The Gush Emunim was -- and remains -- a radical religious group that maintains it has "a commission from God to recapture the biblical lands of Judea and Samaria."

On the November, 1977, afternoon when I visited the area at the suggestion of the mayor of the city of Ramallah, I found that 18 Jewish orthodox families and 25 non-orthodox families had established themselves as the Jewish settlement Halamish, on Palestinian land. All of the families lived in the fort.

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One of the wives from an orthodox family told me in her quiet Chicago, Illinois, accent, that she and her husband had moved to Israel to claim the land Yahweh had given them.

Prime Minister Begin did not officially "approve" of the six Gush Emunim settlements. But he had arranged to protect them. A small IDF unit was stationed on a hill nearby, their tents an early sign of a long-planned settlement movement sanctioned by, and encouraged by, Prime Minister Begin.

Since 1977, Halamish has expanded from its original foothold in the fort to occupy almost half the historic lands of al-Nabi Saleh. Tensions have always been high between Halamish and Al-Nabi Saleh. The most recent clash has come  over the issue of land confiscation of property and water.

The blog, JadaIyya, reports on the source of the current protests by both Palestinians and internationals against the actions of the Halamish  settlers:

"In December, 2009 settlers from Halamish expropriated the natural spring of Ayn al-Kus on the south side of Road 465. Several weeks later, Halamish settlers burned down 150 of al-Nabi Saleh's olive trees near the spring."

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Ahlam, whose family also has roots in Al-Nabi Sahel, was born in Jordan, where her family had moved in 1967. As a condition of her release in the October 18 prisoner exchange, Ahlam was forced to fly to Jordan to join her parents' family. She was not allowed to travel with her husband to his family village, Al-Nabi Saleh. The couple was able to meet briefly at Cairo's Airport's Sheraton Hotel on their way to their separate destinations.

The Media Line reported on Ahlam's time in prison and her welcome home in Jordan:

"I was placed in solitary confinement many times, sometimes for a reason and sometimes for no reason. The cell is so small and dark with dark walls and built underground. It's just like being jailed in a tomb. If I hadn't of turned to God, praying and Qura'an, I would have lost my mind." Ahlam recalls.

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James Wall is currently a Contributing Editor of The Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, Illinois. From 1972 through 1999, he was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine. Many sources have influenced Jim's writings over (more...)

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