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Hundreds of Palestinians marry in mass West Bank wedding

Ammar Awad / Reuters

Couples pose for pictures with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, center, during a mass wedding ceremony in the West Bank city of Jericho on Jan. 28, 2014.

The Palestinian Authority hosted a mass marriage ceremony for 220 couples in the West Bank city of Jericho on Tuesday and hopes to make this sort of "national wedding" an annual event.

The PA gave each couple $4,000, an essential down payment for the new families' futures as many of the couples are jobless residents of refugee camps. Given the high unemployment rate in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, which runs at 22.6 percent, the monetary gift was welcomed by the newlyweds.

The couples lucky enough to participate in the event had applied and were chosen from a list. The committee that organized the event vetted the couples and suggested that brides wear traditional Palestinian dress.

NBC News attended the nuptials and talked to some of the newlyweds about love and politics.

More than anything, Jerusalem-born Rajaa' Hilu was flattered when Izzat abu Hilu asked her to marry him.

"I didn't really know him at all," the 21-year-old business student said.  "But when he came to ask for my hand in marriage and told me that he had liked me for a long time, this for sure made me happy that someone had chosen me."

Khaldoon Eid / NBC News

Izzat abu Hilu, 26, and his bride Rajaa' Hilu, 21.

Even on her wedding day, Hilu's had the difficulties of life in the West Bank on her mind.

Khaldoon Eid / NBC News

Izzat and Rajaa show off their wedding rings.

She mentioned the problems facing young men in particular, saying, "Their potential, their studying, all they do is in vain, because there are no jobs. And they want to build families of their own and have children," she said.

Her new husband, abu Hilu, a 26-year-old physical education teacher, agreed.

"We live in a country where it is hard to find jobs and where life can be a little bit difficult," he said. "Naturally we some need help."

So the Palestinian Authority's financial gift was essential, abu Hilu said.

"For sure, if it wasn't for this mass wedding, our engagement might have lasted for many years more."

Of his new wife, he said: "She is one of the closest people to me. She is my fate."

Khaldoon Eid / NBC News

Amina Mohammed Saed, 24, with her new husband Ala'a Obeid, also 24.

Ala'a Obeid, who lives in Tuk Karem refugee camp in the West Bank, has his sister to thank for helping him find love. One day she told him about a "nice girl" living nearby. Now this girl, Amina Mohammed Saed, is his wife.

"Today is the most beautiful day, beautiful feeling and big happiness," said the unemployed 24-year-old.  "It was very difficult for me to get married. Sometimes I even thought it was an impossible mission for me."

While less voluble than her new husband, Saed did concede that it was a special day: "I feel I am the only bride here, even though it's a mass wedding."

Some couples hoping to participate in a parallel celebration for 80 in Gaza ended up disappointed at the last minute.  A spokesman for the enclave run by the militant Hamas group said celebrations there were canceled and postponed until next week.

Khaldoon Eid / NBC News

25 members of Ala'a Obeid's family attended the wedding. "They limited the numbers to 20 but we begged them to add five more," said Insherah Anbar, Ala'a's aunt. "This is the first happiness for his family, he is the first born child."

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