Marriage patterns:
marriage within the clan or outside

A description of marriage patterns is useful to analyse some of the aspects of social relations between the refugee and the host communities. This is because marriage may be understood as symbolising some of the strongest social ties that can be constituted between two social groups.

The classically described preferred marriage among Palestinians is that of endogamous marriage between members of the same clan, and in particular marriage between the children of two brothers. Among the effects of such marriage practices is that the clan becomes a sharply delineated social group, with few ties to other clans. Data from several studies (Ata 1986; Tuastad 1993) suggest that rate of endogamous marriage among Palestinians is fairly stable and high at around forty per cent. The high rate of endogamous marriage undoubtedly contributes to the reproduction of particular Palestinian communities as distinct and bounded units, be they villages, refugee camps or urban neighbourhoods.

Maher, presented earlier in this chapter, followed a traditional marriage pattern. He married his cousin who lived in the same hara (neighbourhood) as himself. His family and the family of his wife came both from the village of Yamasin. The couple settled in the house of Maher's parents, thus abiding with the practice of enlarging the original house of the parents, the bet, into a compound household, a dar. Before Maher decided to move out of the camp, he followed the endogamous marriage and housing pattern which can be traced in traditional Palestinian marriage practices. After living in a neighbourhood outside the camp for three years, he decided to move back to the camp. His decision to return to the camp indicates that his relationship with the native host-country inhabitants in the neighbourhood outside the camp was not satisfactory. He preferred to maintain and strengthen his social ties with his kin and neighbours in the camp, rather than establishing new social ties with the native inhabitants of Nablus who were non-refugees.

Contrary to Maher, other Palestinians broke away from the traditional endogamous marriage pattern and married into the native host-community. Intermarriage thus serves to underline other kinds of networks between the host and refugee communities, represent thereby alliance-building between the two groupings. The relatively common practice of intermarriage between south Lebanese and Palestinians is a case in point. Most Palestinians residing in Rashidiyya, for instance, are Sunni Moslems, but marriage with Lebanese Shiites, the major confessional group in the south, occurs, and could be traced in many households when respondents conveyed the marriage pattern of members within the extended family. Contact between the two communities preceded the 1948 war. The Palestinian population in the Galilee had regular contact with what was to become the host community in south Lebanon. Palestinians from the Galilee region had extensive trade with the south Lebanese before 1948 as Haifa was more important as a port for south Lebanon than the capital of Beirut. Sana, the Lebanese Shiite introduced in chapter four, represents an example of intermarriage between a Palestinian and a Lebanese. Her father's marriage pattern also illustrates an example of intermarriage between the host- and the refugee-community:

Sana's mother is Lebanese, her father however, has both ID-cards. He is originally from Haifa, but came on regular visits to the south of Lebanon before 1948. During one of his visits, a Lebanese census was being carried out, and he registered himself as an inhabitant in Lebanon which enabled him later to receive a Lebanese citizenship. In 1948 he left Palestine and when it became possible he registered himself as a refugee and received an UNRWA-card along with the other residents of his village. According to Sana, her father felt most Lebanese and had little to do with Palestinians since he kept on living in a Lebanese village where he married a Lebanese. Sana's sister, Fadia, who lives in her father's village was on a visit during the interview. Fadia is married to a Christian Lebanese from her village, and their daughter is currently engaged to Sana's eldest son Rami.

In Sana's family we find two examples of intermarriage; one concluded between Sana's Palestinian father and her Lebanese mother, and one concluded between herself and her Palestinian husband. Two cases also illustrate marriage across religious cleavages. The marriage between Sana's father and her mother conveys an example of intermarriage between a Sunni and a Shi'a Moslem, while Sana's sister Fadia, being a Sunni Moslem (following her father's religious affiliation), married a Christian Lebanese.

Marriage across religious lines has a long tradition among Palestinians. Granqvist (1935) shows from her studies in the village of Artas near Bethlehem, that common religious background was not a decisive factor for marriage between couples. Marriage between Christians and Moslems was quite common. She argues that other social factors, such as class and political influence were more important than religion. In the case of Sana, the common social standing of the couple was probably crucial. Sana's father married a stranger who had another confessional background than himself. He was a Sunni Moslem while his wife was a Shi'a Moslem. In the case of Sana's father, the knowledge of Lebanon and his previous network in the country through his numerous business trips, made it possible for him to marry a Lebanese girl when he came to Lebanon after the 1948 exodus.

When recalling Sana's attitude against applying for a Lebanese citizenship for her Palestinian children, we note that the experiences of the two sisters, Sana married to a Palestinian and Fadia married to a Christian Lebanese, have affected their self-identification as Palestinian and Lebanese respectively. At the same time, their family relations are strengthened through the current engagement between Sana's son to her sister Fadia's daughter.

The various marriage patterns illustrated by Sana's family indicate long-term economic and social contact between refugee and host-society which were established long before 1948. Strong social ties appear to be maintained at the household level in families where intermarriage already exist, despite cleavages between the two groupings at the political level. The engagement between Sana's son who is raised in Rashidiyya and considers himself as Palestinian, and Sana's niece who is raised in a Lebanese village and considers herself as Lebanese is a case in point.

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