Foreign News: Wedding at Beit Safafa

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The chief point of interest in the village of Beit Safafa, in the bare hills of Jerusalem, is the 2-ft.-high coil of barbed wire snaking down the middle of its main street. On opposite sides of the barricade, rifle-slung Arab Legionnaires of Jordan and rifle-slung border guards of Israel enforce the division day and night in the name of their jealous sovereignties. One day last week, all Beit Safafa was excited by the wedding of two of its children—Fatma Bint, 20, and Moussa Ayasha, 23, a gardener at the Belgian consulate in Jerusalem.

When from across the border rose the rollicking sound of the bridegroom's party on its way to fetch Fatma to her new home, Arabs on the Jordan side began to stream from their houses. Fatma's Jordanian sister Zariphe left off wailing "Why can I not be at my sister's side on her great day?" and joined uncles and cousins of bride and groom across the wire from Fatma's house. They watched Fatma in her white organdy dress and thick rosy makeup as she was escorted to a waiting taxi, its roof piled high with eiderdowns and gold-embroidered pillows. Then, as the taxi moved off, preceded by the bridegroom's party and followed by Fatma's friends, the divided village began to sing and dance and clap hands. "Why don't you have the feast on our side?'' shouted one Jordanian. "We have more meat." Replied an Israeli Arab: "Our chickens are fatter."

Suddenly the Israeli Arabs fell silent as those on the Jordan side of the wire sang a mournful song. The bridal procession, just about to turn away, halted. As the song faded, the gun-toting border guards of both sides all at once seemed to have shoelaces to lace up or some other reason for averting their eyes. Quickly Zariphe reached across the barbed wire to Fatma.

Sisters and brothers and cousins and uncles stretched out their arms across the wire to embrace, to bless and be blessed. The wedding party, silent now, turned toward the bridegroom's home, and the Arabs on the Jordan side watched until Fatma and her bridegroom were over the hill.

Then the border guards straightened up the wire barricade, and, guns ever ready, resumed their patrolling beside the barbed wire that since 1949 has divided Beit Safafa.