Palestinian Anguishes Over MySpace Romance
JERICHO, West Bank
The Palestinian man who had an Internet romance with a 16-year-old Michigan girl is a music-loving computer buff who says he loves the teen and is heartbroken she was sent home.
Abdullah Jimzawi, a 20-year-old high school dropout who lives with his parents in Jericho, said he and Katherine Lester had planned to marry and she intended to convert to Islam.
The couple still speak to each other at least five hours a day via Internet phone calls, said Jimzawi, a shy soft-spoken young man with close-cropped hair and a two-day beard.
"We love the same things, the same songs and we have similar dreams. I fell in love with her because she is innocent and goodhearted. We found ourselves to be soul mates," he told The Associated Press in an interview in Jericho, a town of 17,000 that is largely immune from the violence plaguing the rest of the West Bank.
Jimzawi, who works in his father's business delivering goods to minimarkets, said his love for Lester is pure. Had she made it to Jericho, he said, she would have shared his sister's bedroom. The couple would have walked together through the tree-lined streets of Jericho, he said, and he and Lester would have celebrated her 17th birthday Wednesday.
"When I realized she wasn't coming, I felt my whole world collapse," he said in the interview Sunday at his family's home. "My tears didn't stop and I couldn't sleep for three days."
"I don't think she realizes how serious this is," Mary Lester said. "We've all tried talking to her, but talking to a 16-year-old is like trying to bend steel."
Chickens roamed the front yard outside his middle-class home, which has a small swimming pool, a large porch with a table and many nearby date palms.
In a sitting room with pink curtains, Jimzawi clicked his computer mouse to play a song from Staind, one of his favorite heavy metal bands. Six framed posters of Quranic verses and Islamic prayers adorned the walls, including one depicting the 99 names of God.
Jimzawi, the second of five children, said he explained to Lester that she should convert to Islam to marry him.
"She said, 'No problem because I love you and I love your religion,'" he said.
Jimzawi's mother, Sana, said Lester intended to sign a marriage contract in Jericho.
Jimzawi said his next step will be to apply for a visa to visit Lester.
His mother said she was sorry about the pain Lester's mother must have gone through when her daughter left. "She had the right to be worried," she said.
But she insisted she and Abdullah had the girl's best interests at heart.
"He met a lot of girls on the Internet, but he loves her and he made everyone in the family love her," she said.
Just how many streets does Jericho have?