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Israel's big fat ultra-Orthodox wedding

While the Knesset was electing a president, tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews were gathered nearby to celebrate the wedding of the Belzer rebbe’s granddaughter, two events so close physically, yet socially and ideologically miles apart.
Ultra-orthodox Jewish bride Esther Rokeach waits for the start of the "mitzva tantz", the custom in which relatives dance in front of the bride after her wedding ceremony, in Jerusalem early June 11, 2014. Thousands gathered on Tuesday to celebrate the wedding of Rokeach, the granddaughter of the spiritual leader of the Belz Hasidim, which is one of the largest Hasidic movements in the world.  REUTERS/Baz Ratner (JERUSALEM - Tags: RELIGION SOCIETY) - RTR3T7BC

Jerusalem experienced two big events this week. The election of a new president on June 10 captivated Israelis, who followed the breathtaking drama underway in the Knesset. Not too far from there, an enormous event was underway, captivating the hearts and minds of the ultra-Orthodox world in Israel and overseas. The Belzer rebbe, Rabbi Yissachar Dov Rokeach, was marrying off his granddaughter to a 17-year-old rabbinical college student.

The two events, which presented a portrait of contemporary Israel, took place just a kilometer [0.62 mile] apart in the same city, but without the wedding guests taking any interest in what was happening in the Knesset and without the people in the Knesset even knowing about the immense ultra-Orthodox celebration. The two worlds living side by side are so completely different that they practically ignore each other. One world speaks Hebrew, and the other speaks Yiddish. One group regards itself as Israeli, and the other sees itself as Jewish. One group acts according to democratic principles, and the other offers blind obedience to the leadership of the Hassidic court.

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