• Due to the coronavirus pendemic, a couple in Israel got married to a near-empty crowd.
  • The couple had originally invited 260 guests, but social distancing measures introduced by the government banned indoor gatherings of 100+ people, meaning they had to alter their plans.
  • A handful of guests were physically present, whilst the rest participated virtually on zoom.
  • Israel has reported 529 confirmed coronavirus cases, with no fatalities.

The hall was nearly empty, the tables lay bare but for white linen covers. A masked man sprayed the floor with disinfectant while a lone saxophonist practised his tunes.

Welcome to Yonatan and Roni’s wedding.

An employee sanitises the chuppah, or Jewish wedding canopy, before Israeli couple Roni Ben-Ari and Yonatan Meushar get married at Ein Hemed Forest Wedding Venue who are offering free, small scale weddings for young couples whose weddings cannot take place as planned due to restrictions imposed by the government to fight the coronavirus, in Ein Hemed, Israel March Coronavirus china virus health healthcare who world health organization disease deaths pandemic epidemic worries concerns Health virus contagious contagion viruses diseases disease lab laboratory doctor health dr nurse medical medicine drugs vaccines vaccinations inoculations technology testing test medicinal biotechnology biotech biology chemistry physics microscope research influenza flu cold common cold bug risk symptomes respiratory china iran italy europe asia america south america north washing hands wash hands coughs sneezes spread spreading precaution precautions health warning covid 19 cov SARS 2019ncov wuhan sarscow wuhanpneumonia  pneumonia outbreak patients unhealthy fatality mortality elderly old elder age serious death deathly deadly
An employee disinfects the wedding venue, prior to the couples' nuptials.
Image: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

The coronavirus outbreak has disrupted life for millions of people around the world, and weddings have been among the many casualties of lockdowns, self-isolation and official bans on large public gatherings.

But this Israeli couple were not going to let that get in the way of their big day.

In Israel’s Ein Hemed National Park, a short drive from Jerusalem, the bride and groom embraced, exchanged vows and danced cheek to cheek. The only difference was, there were barely any guests there to witness their nuptials.

“It is different than what we had imagined ... but it’s perfect, I think,” said bride Roni Ben-Ari, 26, turning to the groom and laughing.

“It’s a different and unique way (to get married),” added Yonatan Meushar, 36, also speaking in Hebrew. “But we are getting used to the situation.”

A handful of close relatives attended, and other “guests” participated virtually via the Zoom app.

Israeli couple Roni Ben-Ari and Yonatan Meushar, embrace as they get married at Ein Hemed Forest Wedding Venue who are offering free, small scale weddings for young couples whose weddings cannot take place as planned due to restrictions imposed by the government to fight the coronavirus, in Ein Hemed, Israel March 18, 2020 Coronavirus china virus health healthcare who world health organization disease deaths pandemic epidemic worries concerns Health virus contagious contagion viruses diseases disease lab laboratory doctor health dr nurse medical medicine drugs vaccines vaccinations inoculations technology testing test medicinal biotechnology biotech biology chemistry physics microscope research influenza flu cold common cold bug risk symptomes respiratory china iran italy europe asia america south america north washing hands wash hands coughs sneezes spread spreading precaution precautions health warning covid 19 cov SARS 2019ncov wuhan sarscow wuhanpneumonia  pneumonia outbreak patients unhealthy fatality mortality elderly old elder age serious death deathly deadly
A small number of family attended, whilst the rest joined via the video service Zoom.
Image: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

As Israel moves closer to lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus, most events, including weddings and other celebrations, have been cancelled.

So Itamar Yakutieli, manager of the Ein Hemed Forest Wedding Venue, launched a special service offering free, small-scale weddings for young couples whose weddings cannot take place as planned.

Ben-Ari and Meushar, from Kibbutz Kalya, a settlement near the Dead Sea in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, had planned to get married before but had to cancel after Israel limited indoor gatherings to 100 people the night before.

They had been expecting some 260 guests.

Then the couple heard about Yakutieli’s initiative.

“Our diary is empty, the dance floors are empty,” he told Reuters. “In order to fight the coronavirus epidemic we decided to launch a Jewish marriage ceremony operation which are broadcast online.”

Israel has reported 529 confirmed coronavirus cases. No fatalities from the related disease have been reported in Israel or in the Palestinian territories to date.