Weddings are always a big occasion, but with a guest-list of more than 25,000, this traditional Jewish ceremony dwarfs even the most lavish of nuptials.
Jewish well-wishers from around the world attended the Ultra Orthodox Jewish wedding to witness the marriage of the grandson of the leader of the Hasidic dynasty Belz Rebbe yesterday.
Steeped in tradition, these amazing images show the ceremony of 18-year-old Shalom Rokeach and his 19-year-old bride Hannah Batya Penet in Jerusalem, Israel.
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‘Ultra orthodox wedding’: Hasidic bride Hannah Batya Penet is seen in a traditional white wedding dress with a veil covering her face as her female relatives escort her to the ceremony in Jerusalem, Israel
Future leader: The groom Shalom Rokeach, 18, pictured centre, is the grandson of the head of one of the largest Hasidic communities in Jerusalem, Belz Rebbe, and is expected to take his place as leader of the sect one day
Centre of attention: The bride Hannah Batya Penet during the ceremony which lasts several hours
Rare occasion: Thousands of Hasidim Jews dressed in black watch as an Ultra Orthodox Jewish rabbi dances with the bride during the Mitvah tantz ritual
Shalom Rokeach is the eldest and only male grandchild of the Belz Rebbe, who heads one of the largest Hasidic communities in the world. Being the only male, the newlywed is assumed to be the Rebbe’s future heir in leading the community.
Belz Rebbe is an ancient Polish-Jewish dynasty which has its roots in the 14th Century in the Polish town of the same name. The marriage of one of its descendants, who is considered aristocracy among Orthodox Jews, is big occasion and all members of the sect from all over the world are invited.
The wedding is a rare meet-and-greet opportunity for leaders of various Hasidic sects. Thousands of Belz Hasids from the United States and Europe attended the celebration, which lasted until dawn. A number of Jerusalem streets were shut down because of the size of the celebrations.
Traditional Jewish weddings consist of two separate parts, the betrothal ceremony, known as erusin or kiddushin, and the actual wedding ceremony, known as nisuin.
Big event: The wedding – which saw up to 30,000 guests attend – is one of the largest Orthodox Jewish ceremonies in recent years
Crowded: Thousands wanted to witness the wedding of Shalom Rokeach who will become the next leader of one of the largest Hasidic communities in Israel
Under the stars: The couple’s vows were said underneath a chuppah – a large canopy supported by four poles which is erected outside so the ceremony can be conducted underneath the sky
Intricate: A detailed a look at Hannah’s lace and crystal encrusted veil, as well as small diamond earrings
The first betrothal ceremony sees the groom give a wedding ring to the bride. During this part of the service, the bride is prohibited from talking to all other men.
The wedding ceremony then takes place underneath a large four-poled stand with a canopy overhead known as a chuppah so the groom and his veiled bride can be married underneath the sky.
The bride’s wedding veil takes various forms among the different Jewish communities. Some Hasidic brides wear a heavy cloth veil that, Hasidic Jews believe, protect the bride’s modesty by allowing her to avoid guests’ gazes while she stands under the wedding canopy.
Ultra-Orthodox Jewish bride Hannah Batya Pene, centre, sits with her relatives during her wedding ceremony
Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men watch the wedding of the grandson of the Chief Rabbi of Belz, Yissachar Dov Rokeach, and his bride, Hannah Batya Penet, in Jerusalem
Bride Hannah Batya Penet takes part in a traditional celebratory dance with her relative while still wearing her veil
Mesmerised: An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man uses a pair of binoculars during the wedding ceremony of Shalom Rokeach, the grandson of the Chief Rabbi of Belz, and his bride Hannah Batya Penet
The veil also recalls the Matriarch Leah, whose face was covered so heavily that Jacob did not know she was not Rachel at the wedding ceremony. The bride only has to wear the veil during the ceremony.
After the ceremony the bride and groom spend an hour together before the bride re-enters the chuppah and, after gaining her permission, the groom joins her. The couple are then blessed over a cup of wine at the conclusion of the ceremony.
All the male guests dressed in black and wore traditional shtreimel hats for the occasion, which traditionally separates the men from the women.
Under the stars: Bride Hannah Batya Penet is led by female relatives to the chuppah, a large supported canopy, where the wedding vows took place
Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men lead Shalom Rokeach, grandson of the Chief Rabbi of Belz, Yissachar Dov Rokeach, during his wedding ceremony
Daunting: Around 25,000 guests from around the world descending on Jerusalem to watch the ceremony
Orthodox aristocracy: The Belz Hasidic dynasty is one of the largest Hasidic sects in the world
Tens of thousands of Ultra-Orthodox Jews of the Belz Hasidic Dynasty watch the wedding ceremony of Rabbi Shalom Rokach
Watch your step! Penet struggled to manage her dress through her veil after she finished dancing with her relatives
Spectators: Ultra-Orthodox Jews of the Belz Hasidic Dynasty use binoculars to watch the wedding ceremony
Emotional: Hasidim Ultra Orthodox Jews sing and chant during the wedding of the grandson of Beltz Rebbe in Jerusalem, Israel
THE ULTRA ORTHODOX JEWISH WEDDING
It was so full that some guests were forced to use binoculars to catch a glimpse of the service.
After the wedding ceremony, the bride took part in the Mitzvah tantz ritual – where members of the family and honoured rabbis dance in front of her and then with the groom.
The bride stands perfectly still, holding one end of a long sash while rabbis, the groom’s father, her own father or her grandfather holds the other end and dances with her.
According to the Talmud, it’s considered a great honor to entertain a new bride and to dance for her during her wedding.
Only a few women take part in this section of the celebrations.
Members of the congregation held hands and danced during the ceremony and sweets were handed out to children before the wedding party enjoyed a traditional meal.
Hasidic Jews wear clothes similar to that worn by their ancestors in 18th and 19th century Europe – and this style of attire also helps them to focus on their sense of tradition and spirituality.
The biggest Hasidic communities are found in Israel and the U.S. There also smaller groups in Canada, England, Belgium and Australia.
Their lives revolve around religious study, prayer and family – and theirs is a world without television, films, the internet or secular publications.
The men generally have beards and sidelocks (peyot).
Women tend to wear long skirts and shirts with long sleeves and high necklines as they adhere to strict guidelines of modesty.
After the women get married, they cover their heads with either scarves, hats or wigs (known as ‘sheitels’).
Ultra-Orthodox Jewish boys look at preparations for the wedding of the Chief Rabbi of Belz, Yissachar Dov Rokeach’s grandson, in Jerusalem
Matching outfits: Hasidic Jews wear clothes similar to that of their ancestors. They can be seen in traditional shtreimel hats for the wedding ceremony
Awaiting crowds: Some 25,000 Ultra-Orthodox Jews participated in one of the biggest weddings in the past few years
Well-wishers: Tens of thousands of Ultra-Orthodox Jews of the Belz Hasidic Dynasty watch the wedding ceremony of Rabbi Shalom Rokach
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