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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.
“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.“Women who lost their men during the last three wars have difficult lives and few options,” says Reham Owda, a Gaza-based writer and analyst of women’s issues.“In most cases the husband’s family pressures the woman to marry the brother-in-law to control her life and seize any financial aid she receives.” Owda adds that if the widow’s husband is affiliated with a political party, it might intervene and pressure the woman to marry a man from same group.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.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.