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Rami Shatali with three of his daughters during his wedding in the Maghazi camp on the Gaza Strip, May 1, 2017. Shatali and his new wife, both divorcees with children, met on Wesal, a Palestinian matchmaking website that facilitates marriages for widows, the divorced and those who have never married. (Wissam Nassar/The New York Times)


‘Halal version’ of Tinder challenges tradition in Palestine

June 10, 2017

In the Gaza Strip, a religiously conservative area where established dating apps such as Tinder are banned, a pioneering matchmaking website called Wesal is starting to grow in popularity. In accordance with Islamic law, profile photos and online chatting are banned on Wesal — instead, potential partners list details such as their occupation, salary, marital status, and the number of children they have. If a man and a woman each like each other’s profile, the man is given the woman’s address — and 48 hours to formally propose marriage.

“We are the halal version of American dating websites,” explained Wesal founder Hashem Sheika, a 33-year-old Palestinian originally born in Saudi Arabia. Sheikha believes that his site can help give women seeking husbands — and divorced women in particular — greater autonomy when choosing a potential spouse.

“Our website encourages them to search for husbands by themselves, to truly choose and say what they like in the man,” said Sheikha. “We also fight old traditions that say divorced women should not get married.”

Despite his seemingly progressive slant, Sheikha adds that the site is also meant to help address “an increase in the number of spinsters in their 20s and 30s” because, according to Sheikha, women are “better” off married. He was also open about the site’s support of polygamy — many of the men who use his site, he pointed out, are searching for a second or third bride.

“Our men fight wars and die,” said Sheikha. “Women stay alive. That is why my project supports polygamy.”

Not everyone is in favor of the project. Many conservative clerics say they would prefer people get married through more traditional means, and some single women expressed concerns that the website made it seem like women were sale.

“This website is disgusting,” said Lina Zein, a 25-year-old single woman living in Gaza City. “Women are not a sack of onions.”

Read the full story at The New York Times.


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