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Israeli-Palestinian couple fight to live together

Written by: Staff
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RAMALLAH, West Bank, May 16 (Reuters) Jasmin Avissar and Osama Zatar fell in love, got married and hoped to live happily ever after -- but she's an Israeli Jew and he's a Palestinian Muslim and now they have nowhere to call home.

The couple's ''Romeo and Juliet'' struggle to live together is a rare tale of cross-border love in a land riven by years of violence between Israel and Palestinians.

Avissar, a 25-year-old classical dancer, met Zatar, 26, when they both worked at an isolated animal shelter on the border between Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank.

They wed two years ago, but Israel has not granted them permission to live in the Jewish state. So they live in the West Bank city of Ramallah but on borrowed time -- Avissar's Israeli army-issued permit to cross into the Palestinian-run city is temporary.

Israel denies residence permits to virtually all Palestinian men under-35 under a law, passed during a five-year-old Palestinian revolt, aimed at tightening security and preventing suicide bombings. The Israeli military also generally bars Israelis from Palestinian-ruled territory.

It is rare for Jews to marry Arabs either in Israel or the occupied territories, and the few who do tend to keep quiet about a union frowned upon by many Israelis and Palestinians.

''We're in a Kafka-esque situation. All we want is the right to live together as a married couple,'' said Avissar, who crosses an Israeli checkpoint almost daily to work as a waitress in Jerusalem.

''The authorities are constantly trying to keep us apart'', said Zatar, a sculptor who sports a dark ponytail. ''We love each other and plan a future together, if we can have one''.

That ''if'' rings through their lives -- their uncertain situation makes talking about buying a house, or having children impossible.

The couple have appealed to Israel's High Court to force the government to allow them to live together indefinitely, either in Israel or in the Palestinian territories.

'BEING HELD A FOE, HE MAY NOT HAVE ACCESS' Their chances of success are uncertain.

On Sunday, Israel's High Court narrowly upheld a law that denies Israeli residency to many Palestinians who marry Israelis, rejecting appeals against a statute that critics say violates human rights and is racist.

In the couple's separate petition, lawyer Michael Sfard quotes from Shakespeare's tragic romance, comparing the feud between the Montague and Capulet families to the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians.

''Being held a foe, he may not have access to breathe such vows as lovers used to swear; And she as much in love, her means much less to meet her new-beloved anywhere'', Sfard writes, quoting from Shakespeare's play.

More Reuters MIR BST0848

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