First public Jewish wedding in the UAE attracts curious spectators

Dozens of onlookers in traditional Arab garb showed that this was no ordinary Orthodox Jewish celebration.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Just over two months after Israel and the United Arab Emirates signed the historic Abraham Accords normalizing their relations, the first official Jewish wedding was held in Dubai Monday.

The Israeli government’s official Arab language Twitter account featured a brief Youtube clip of the celebration, posted by the Belaaz Jewish Media Outlet, along with the Israeli and Emirati flags. Its caption read: “The first official Jewish wedding ceremony is now taking place in the Emirates. God sustains all joys.”

The prestigious Park Hyatt Dubai Hotel’s garden was decked out like any traditional Orthodox wedding in the United States. Dozens of elegant white chairs stretched out on either side of a long, white, cloth carpet leading to the wedding canopy so that all the male and female guests could sit separately, as religious Jews usually do. A band belted out Ashkenazic wedding songs to joyously accompany the modestly dressed bride and black-hatted groom to and from the ceremony.

About 150 people were present, about half of them Jews from Israel and other countries. Other attendees were curious tourists and Arab locals, who came to watch the unusual event and stood out in their traditional Emirati garb.

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The wedding was also reported by the Emirate 71 news site, albeit with some negative editorializing.

“Jewish settlers in their traditional clothes, take pride in holding the first Jewish wedding ceremony in the Emirate of Dubai, without even the slightest respect for the state’s laws that emphasized precautionary measures and social distancing to prevent the Coronavirus!” it tweeted, adding the hashtag #normalization_a betrayal.

It is true that the UAE still requires people to cover their noses and mouths in a public place. In the video clip, only a scattering of the guests could be seen wearing masks, and the dancing men had their arms over each other’s shoulders.

However, as a ‘green’ country with a low rate of infection, the UAE only requires arrivals to present a negative Covid test result less than four days old and to undergo another test six days later. People who visit the Gulf country can therefore easily come and go within a week, and do not have to confine themselves upon their return.

Their restrictions on gatherings are also laxer for religious ceremonies than in Israel, where due to the Covid-19 epidemic, Israeli health guidelines currently limit weddings to only 20 participants outdoors. In addition, if family members fly in from certain countries, like the United States, they must isolate themselves for 12-14 days upon arrival.

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Considering that in religious Jewish circles, the nuclear families alone often consist of a few dozen members, the UAE may now become a popular wedding destination, as it is only a few hours’ flight away from Tel Aviv. According to a Ynet report Wednesday, the Emiratis have already begun planning for an uptick in wedding tourism.