As Israel's wedding industry remains shuttered due to tough COVID-19 restrictions, ultra-Orthodox couples surprisingly choose to fly to the United Arab Emirates, which recently normalized ties with the Jewish state and has much more forgiving health guidelines.
Public events in Israel are limited to 20 participants open areas and 10 in confined spaces, which has made it difficult for many couples to hold wedding ceremonies, especially in the religious and ultra-Orthodox sector that tend to traditionally have much larger families.
According to Jewish law, it is important to hold the event on the scheduled date at almost any cost and reducing the guest list to only 20 participants may seem as an almost-impossible task for the religious public.
Sheli Scheinfeld and Shimon Pisakov, an engaged ultra-Orthodox couple, are one of many who have moved the happiest day of their lives from Israel to the Gulf state.
"We have 200 guests on an area of 1,500 square meters (16,145 square feet), so this is a great solution," Scheinfeld told the Ynet studio in an interview. "In Israel, you can only have 20 people at a wedding, and it's very important for us to have our loved ones by our side."
"We started telling this to people about two months ago as a joke, that we're going to get married in Dubai, but with time, we realized it was the ideal solution," Pisakov added.
The event's organizer, Avi Fine Chen of Gaya Tours, said that demand is very high and that he expects dozens more "kosher" weddings to take place in the UAE in the coming months.
Earlier this month, the UAE hosted its first-ever Orthodox Jewish wedding, staging a lavish event in Dubai.
The event took place at the Park Hyatt Dubai Hotel and featured some 150 participants. About half of the guests came from Israel and other countries, with the rest of the attendees being curious tourists, who had no connection to either the bride or the groom.
Fein Chen was behind this event as well and said that it lasted for ten hours and caught the attention of curious locals, some of whom came to watch the event, donning traditional Arab attire.