Wedding eventually goes ahead, with 'rotation' of guests

Groom nearly faints as police enforcing health rules clash with wedding party

Video of confrontation at Dead Sea beach goes viral; authorities say they were called by venue owner after guests above allowed number attempted to enter premises

A groom is seen at a wedding at the Dead Sea, after police were called to disperse some of the guests to maintain health regulations, October 21, 2020 (video screenshot)
A groom is seen at a wedding at the Dead Sea, after police were called to disperse some of the guests to maintain health regulations, October 21, 2020 (video screenshot)

Police enforcement of health restrictions at a wedding sparked a row between revelers and officers Wednesday, as guests expressed outrage over cops trying to shut down the event, and the groom appeared to become ill over the ruckus.

The wedding took place at a beachside venue at the Dead Sea, and the confrontation with police was filmed on a video that was shared on social media.

In the video, guests fume at police for what they claim is uneven enforcement, and eventually officers allow the event to go ahead, albeit with a smaller number of guests.

The incident, which came a week after a bloody brawl erupted as police busted a backyard wedding, appeared to underscore the confusion that exists among both the public and law enforcement regarding exactly what is and isn’t allowed.

Weddings are generally not allowed to take place at this time, but gatherings of up to 20 people are, and this appears to have led some to carry out small weddings with several so-called pods of 20 people each. However, officials have said the pod system does not work at weddings due to guests and others insisting on mingling outside their groups, and have refused to okay the reopening of wedding venues.

According to Channel 12, the wedding took place at Neve Midbar Beach, where socially distanced events have been taking place.

The groom’s brother Shmuel told Channel 12 his brother’s wedding had been put off for months by restrictions, but the recent government decision to allow people to visit beaches had led the family to decide to hold the event in distanced groups at Neve Midbar.

Shmuel claimed that a day earlier, police had allowed a wedding of 160 people to take place at the beach, in separate pods of 20 people each.

But on the day, police informed the family their own event would not be allowed. Shmuel didn’t make clear why the wedding went forward anyway, though he said police instructions had come down as many guests were already on their way. He said that only 40 people were eventually at the outdoor venue at the time of the incident.

Police said the owner of the venue had called them to the scene after he stopped several dozen more guests from entering, in order to keep numbers to those allowed by health regulations, but the guests refused to leave and attempted to enter anyway.

Shmuel said a large number of cops arrived, and while some discussed only limiting numbers inside, others wanted to shut down the event entirely. That, he said, was when his brother paled and nearly collapsed.

The video showed angry guests at the religious event converging on cops and accusing them of selective enforcement against the religious, while ignoring gatherings by “Arabs,” secular Israelis and anti-government protesters.

“Go disperse protesters at Balfour,” some called, in reference to regular mass demonstrations against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his residence on Jerusalem’s Balfour Street.

Others said police “didn’t come to the secular [weddings].”

At one point the groom, who came out and observed the confrontation, began to look woozy and appeared near-fainting, as concerned friends and family asked him if he was alright.

Shmuel said eventually officers allowed the wedding inside to move forward with two pods of 20 people, and to rotate those with the 20-30 more waiting outside in the parking lot. He praised the police’s overall handling of the incident.

Police said the officers “left the scene after doing their job, the gathering at the parking was dispersed and the breaking of rules was prevented.”

Israeli border police officers patrol on Jaffa Street in downtown Jerusalem, as Israel steps out of coronavirus lockdown and rolls back restrictions, on October 21, 2020. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Israel is currently under eased lockdown restrictions after a month-long national closure, with many freedoms of movement restored and many businesses reopened.

However, gatherings remain limited to 10 people indoors and 20 outdoors.

Israel has seen a steady decline in coronavirus cases in recent weeks, as well as in the percentage of tests to come back positive. However, Health Ministry officials have warned the country could yet see a new spike due to non-compliance with virus guidelines, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said the government could reimpose limitations if infections go up.

The decisions to lift some restrictions came a week after the Sukkot and Simhat Torah holidays, prompting concerns of an outbreak in ultra-Orthodox areas, where gatherings were common and numerous violations were recorded. These lockdown violations may not yet be reflected in the official data.

The lockdown, Israel’s second since the start of the coronavirus outbreak earlier this year, sharply brought down daily infection rates but paralyzed public life for many.

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