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Violence outside wedding hall Photo: Guy Assayag
Violence outside wedding hall Photo: Guy Assayag
 
 

West Side Story, Meah Shearim style

International millionaire's family opposes daughter's marriage to young Jerusalem resident, rabbis object in harshly-worded manifest, but young couple claims victory and weds according to Jewish law

Neta Sela
Published: 04.09.08, 14:58 / Israel Jewish Scene

The bride's parents objected, rabbis protested and the public took to the streets – but the young couple refused to give up. Against all odds and despite violent demonstrations outside the wedding hall, a young ultra-Orthodox woman from overseas and her Jerusalemite fiancé were married in the capital Tuesday evening.

 

It all began when an international millionaire, a renowned haredi philanthropist, sent his 19-year-old daughter to study in an ultra-Orthodox institution for girls in Jerusalem.

 

In Israel, the daughter got involved with a young haredi man, but according to sources familiar with the affair, the woman's father objected to the relationship from the very beginning, claiming that the young man was a "shababnik" (a yeshiva dropout).


 

Love wins all? Bride and groom (Photo: Guy Assayag)

 

From the moment the bride's family overseas learned of her desire to marry the young man, her relatives began sending messengers and public activists to the Holy Land in a bid to persuade her not to go ahead with her plans.

 

The family also appealed to the most prominent Orthodox rabbis, asking that they exert efforts in a bid to cancel the planned wedding. The rabbis even issued a manifest against the engagement, but to no avail.

 

According to the sources, messengers on behalf of the bride's family visited the groom's father in a bid to convince him to call off the wedding. The father, the sources said, promised he would work to cancel the engagement. Shortly afterward, however, an engagement ceremony took place, at the father's presence.

 

Prominent rabbis get involved

At the beginning of the week, the family discovered that the wedding would take place Tuesday evening. Claiming that the young man's family had exploited wealthy families in the past, the woman's family managed to convince prominent rabbis to issue another manifest against the wedding.  


 

Demonstration outside wedding hall (Photo: Guy Assayag)

 

Leaflets slamming the marriage were hung in haredi neighborhoods, carrying the signatures of Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, Rabbi Nissim Karelitz and Rabbi Michal Yehuda Levkovitch.

 

Addressing the groom's father, the rabbis wrote, "After hearing from important scholars that your son is about to marry a girl as opposed to the Torah's wishes, we demand that you prevent this marriage which will not be held according to our dedicated Jewish law.

 

"Who can tolerate such a marriage with such great sorrow on the part of the daughter's mother and father? It is a defamation of God to marry a person from the street considered problematic like the groom."


 

Wedding hall's guards clash with protestors (Photo: Guy Assayag)

 

The announcements called out, "An act of villainy being carried out in Israel," claiming that the groom's family did not listen to the rabbi's demands to call off the wedding, and urging the haredi public to protest outside the groom's home and outside the Jerusalem wedding hall during the ceremony.

 

At around 5 pm Tuesday, announcements were sounded across Jerusalem's ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods, calling on the public to go out and protest. The groom's family, upon hearing the calls from its home, located in the heart of a haredi neighborhood, rushed to leave the house before the demonstrators' arrival.

 

When the protestors realized that the family was not at home, they continued towards the Beit Hakerem neighborhood, where the wedding ceremony was being held.

 

Several yeshiva students stood outside the wedding hall, carrying signs protesting the event. A violent scuffle erupted between the protestors and the wedding hall's security guards, and police officers were dispatched to the area.

 

The skirmish did not interrupt the bride and groom's plans. They were married, and celebrated with their guests into the night. What will happen next? Time will tell.

 

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