The largest Jewish wedding in the history of the Arabian Gulf took place in the United Arab Emirate’s capital of Abu Dhabi on Wednesday with 1,500 invited guests.
Rabbi Levi Duchman, the first rabbi to serve in the UAE, opened the doors of his wedding to Lea Hadad to turn the event into a mutual celebration of the second anniversary of the Abraham Accords that were formally signed in Washington on September 15. Under the auspices of the Accords, Israel normalized ties with four Arab countries: the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan.
Duchman delivered a speech in Yiddish prior to the wedding ceremony, and a small choir sang Jewish songs. The diverse guest list included Muslim and Christian friends, including men dressed in white robes and white head coverings and Muslim women wearing decorative scarves. Participants marveled at the changes the last two years have brought since the Accords were signed. They noted that a ceremony of this kind would not have been possible just a mere three years ago. “The Abraham Accords have brought a lot of miracles,” Emirati engineer Saoud Saqer said as he stood outside prior to the ceremony, which took place under a large white tent on the lawn near the Hilton Hotel. “The Abraham Accords is a miracle, and having this wedding and with a thousand people here” from diverse backgrounds and different religions is one of those miracles, Sager said.
Hamad al-Sudain, the licensing director at the Department of Culture and Tourism, said he had brought his entire team. They knew Duchman because they had worked to help him receive permits for prayer services and other religious activities. Sudain described how he had met Duchman by accident in London two weeks ago. Duchman told him, “I’m having a wedding. I want to see you there,” Sudain recalled. Attorney Tariq Abdunnatin explained, “Rabbi Levi is a prominent figure in the community. With what happened with the Abraham Accords, the UAE being a tolerant place to live in, it’s important that Muslims, Jews, Christians, Hindu and all parts of the community come and celebrate the wedding.”
Prior to the ceremony, the bride, Lea Hadad, 27, surrounded herself with friends and family. She is of Jewish Moroccan descent and is the daughter of Belgian Chief Rabbi Menachem Hadad.
Duchman, 29, of Brooklyn, New York, has been in the UAE since 2014, working to build the Jewish community there, which has flourished in the last two years. According to Chabad, Duchman has established “institutions and houses of worship across Abu Dhabi and Dubai, including a Jewish school, Hebrew supplemental school, a mikvah [ritual bath] for the Jewish rite of purification, and the government-licensed kosher agency. He has also brought several rabbis to the UAE to join him in serving the community, and established a rabbinical training program for rabbinical interns.”
The wedding falls on the 18 of Elul on the Hebrew calendar, which is the birth date of both the Baal Shem Tov, who founded the chasidic movement, and of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, who founded the Chabad-Lubavitch movement.
By Tovah Lazaroff/Jerusalem Post