Sixty thousand flag-waving onlookers packed into a Nablus stadium the other day, but they weren't there to see a soccer game. The flags they were waving were Hamas banners, and a local sheikh used the sound system to berate the U.S. and Israel, but the spectators hadn't gathered for a political rally, either.
They were all wedding guests. Hamas (yes, that Hamas) had decided to sponsor a mass wedding ceremony involving 226 couples. Why? According to the BBC, "Organizers said the ceremony was an attempt to show a different side to Hamas, which has carried out numerous suicide bombings in Israel." Perhaps if Hamas wanted to show a different side of itself, it might have chosen a side that didn't make everyone else think of Rev. Moon's Unification Church, but that's their business.
The mass wedding was also intended as "a show of strength for the organization, which is contesting Palestinian parliamentary elections," according to the Beeb. A local Hamas leader told the AP that the mass ceremony "says that Hamas is a part of every aspect of Palestinian society. This is a message to the world -- we are not terrorists."
The couples seemed pleased. All 226 grooms wore green Hamas scarves, and stood on a stage separate from that of their brides. The brides were veiled, of course, and wore green Hamas scarves with their dark abayat. Hamas apparently doesn't like the white wedding gowns otherwise familiar throughout the region.
One of the brides told AP that, "This is a love letter to the whole world from Hamas."