Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas presided over a mass wedding of 218 couples in the parking lot of a 5 star hotel.
With unemployment and the cost of living rising, couples are unable to afford a traditional wedding, so many of them jumped at the chance of the all-expenses-paid party.
Mr. Abbas’s office funded the event with more than $1-million, including $4,000 in startup money for each couple.
The brides wore colorful embroidered Palestinian robes and carried bouquets of white roses, while the grooms wore black suits, white shirts and red ties. The couples sat in rows of chairs flanking a central stage where Mr. Abbas delivered a speech, followed by wedding singers.
According to local custom, the groom has to pay for all expenses, including the wedding party, the bridal gown and a gold dowry, as well as provide a place for the couple to live. At a minimum, a young man needs about $10,000 for a traditional wedding.
In his speech, Mr. Abbas lashed out at Hamas, alleging the group had prevented a wedding party of several dozen Gaza couples that was to coincide with the one in the parking lot of Jericho’s Intercontinental Hotel.
"Unfortunately, Hamas is insisting on dividing the people," Mr. Abbas told the audience. "Hamas today banned our boys and girls in Gaza from having their party together with us. We wanted to do it as an expression of national unity that they didn’t want."