Image: Mass wedding
Yoray Liberman  /  Getty Images
Brides and grooms wait for their mass wedding on Tuesday in the old Port of Tel Aviv, Israel. The mass wedding was made possible during the UN ceasefire by the Tel Aviv municipality together with private donators.
updated 8/15/2006 2:46:53 PM ET 2006-08-15T18:46:53

There was one rabbi, 50 couples, close to a hundred Jewish mothers-in-law, and the only explosions were from popping corks and breaking glasses.

The mass wedding on Monday for couples from Israel's north, who had to cancel their weddings as more than 4,000 Hezbollah rockets hit their region in the past month, was planned during the war but 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 pouring in some $2.5 million, organizers said, to sponsor the ceremony at a massive nightclub in Tel Aviv's old port.

"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."

Before the night was over, 50 grooms had stomped on and broken a glass, in accordance with Jewish marriage rituals. The moment was followed by a little crying, a lot of relieved sighs and more "mazeltov"s 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, and with the wedding-crashers, press and other interlopers there were at least 6,000 people present, organizers said. The 50 couples were chosen from more than 300 applied after the war interrupted the busy summer wedding season.

‘In your face, Hezbollah’
"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.

Like Rosenberg Zeira, most brides would have preferred to have a more personalized ceremony back home.

But as the list of their home towns was read over a microphone, it sounded like the police blotters of Israeli towns and cities hit hardest by rockets in the past month: Tiberias, Kiryat Shemona, Safed and Haifa.

200 rockets a day
Northern Israel has been hit by nearly 200 rockets each day since launched its offensive against Hezbollah guerrillas who captured two Israeli soldiers in a daring cross-border raid on July 12. These 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."

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