TEL AVIV, Israel – There was one rabbi, 50 couples, and the only explosions were from popping corks and breaking glasses.
The mass wedding Monday was for couples who had to cancel their nuptials over the past month as more than 4,000 Hezbollah rockets hit their northern Israeli region. By coincidence, the ceremony happened on the first day of the cease-fire.
This was added cause for celebration.
Brides danced with fathers, grooms danced with mothers. Women in body paint and dressed as flowers danced on pedestals as part of the entertainment. And it was all free, with Israeli companies donating some $2.5 million for the ceremony at a massive nightclub in Tel Aviv's old port, organizers said.
"This is the real answer against our enemy," said one of Israel's two chief rabbis, Yonah Metzger, who presided over the ceremony at the pier. "We send him the biggest bomb that we can after 50 grooms break their glasses. This is the real answer."
After the new husbands stomped on their glasses — in accordance with Jewish marriage rituals — there was a little crying, a lot of relieved sighs and more "mazeltovs" than anyone could count.
Metzger said Hezbollah wanted to destroy Jewish homes, but these couples were building them instead.
Each couple was allowed 100 guests. But with wedding-crashers, press and other interlopers there were at least 6,000 people, organizers said. The 50 couples were chosen from more than 300 applicants after the war interrupted the busy summer wedding season.
"We're all saying, 'In your face, Hezbollah,'" said bride Leah Rosenberg Zeira, 26, as her new husband kneeled to adjust her gown so she could dance. She said she was at first disappointed with having to cancel plans and be part of a mass wedding, but the ceremony turned out to be beautiful.
Northern Israel has been hit by nearly 200 rockets a day since fighting started against Hezbollah guerrillas who captured two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid July 12. The couples' backyards became the war's front lines.
"It's nice, but it's not what I planned for," said Bella Agronov, 25, holding a small bouquet and waiting for her groom to bring her a veil. "But it's fun. And it's a long way from the Katyushas."