Warning: The following will likely make you nauseous.
He was from Fatah and she was from Hamas, the two rival Palestinian movements. They were both serving multiple life sentences. They had participated in killings – she for her role in a Jerusalem restaurant bombing, he in connection with the killing of an Israeli.
As lovers go they could not have been more star crossed, yet Nezar and Ahlam Al Tammimi met, fell in love, got engaged and finally married while they were sitting in Israeli jails. Both were among some 450 Palestinian prisoners swapped for Israeli hostage Gilad Shalit last week.
“Nobody believes me when I say that I never ever lost hope. I always saw the light at the end of the tunnel and now I am free,” Ahlam, 31, declares.
Married behind bars, the two now plan a big wedding – as soon as they can finally see each other. They don’t know when that will happen: Under the conditions of their release, Nezar was returned to his home the West Bank while Ahlam was flown to her family in Jordan.
“I met a fellow Palestinian in the university who inspired me, it turned out he was a member of Hamas. I expressed my desire to join them. He told me he has to ask his superior because Ezzeldin Al-Qassam brigades have no female members. After a few days, he came with an approval, which made me the first female Ezzeldin Al-Qassam brigade member,” Ahlam explains.
Ahlam helped Ezz Al Din Al Massri, 20, to blow himself up in Sabarro restaurant in Jerusalem in August 2001, which killed 16 Israelis and injured 150. Her role had been to choose the location and secure transportation to reach that location. Not long after, she was arrested.
Ahlam heard about Nezar Al Tammimi, her relative, 38, who was jailed in 1993 during his university years. He was also studying in Birzeit back then. He was sentenced to life in prison for belonging to a Fatah cell responsible of kidnapping and killing an Israeli in the Jewish community of Beit El near Ramallah. Ahlam admired him. Ahlam actually visited Nezar in jail before she was jailed herself. The spark of mutual admiration that they felt back then developed over time into love.
Ahlam and Nezar started exchanging letters while in jail. “Each letter would take a month to reach Nezar and another month to get his response back. I would place the letter in the mail and send it to my family. My family would send it to Nezar’s family. Nezar’s family would send it to him.”
“Nezar would go through the same process to send me a letter. Our letters were so precious, they took so much time and they were our only means of communication. We would share experiences, express our love and share our virtual dreams of being and living together after our marriage,” Ahlam says with a broad smile and a sparkle in her eyes.
The two were not only separated by bars but by membership in rival movements. After briefly sharing control of the Palestinian Authority, Fatah and Hamas fought each other for control of the Gaza Strip in 2007 and have failed to patch up their differences despite a declaration of national unity last spring.
On an August day in 2005, Nezar’s fellow inmates threw him a party to celebrate his engagement to Ahlam. Simultaneously, Ahlam celebrated a party in parallel with her inmates. After that, their one and only meeting came in March 2010, when they were both summoned by the Israeli intelligence to be questioned about the relationship between them and their future plans.
“After exchanging letters and falling in love we both decided to get engaged even if we were both jailed for life,” she recounts.
Their fathers arranged the documents and sent them copies of the marriage contract in jail. Nezar sent his wife wedding rings but the Israeli prison administration confiscated them all, she says.
Ahlam’s dream now is to settle down after a huge wedding that reunites her with her husband Nezar. “All I dream about now is to live with Nezar, settling down and raising our future children.”
How odd. I didn’t think Ahlam was the “children” type.
I find it inexplicable that these two murders should get a chance at happiness after they ruined the lives of so many.
I am willing to bet their wedding will be a target rich environment. Just saying.