(photo credit: Channel 1)
With the end of Shavuot and the counting of the Omer, wedding season took off at full-tilt on Thursday. But for residents of the western Negev, plans that had seemed set in stone suddenly became uncertain as rockets rained in and around the wedding sites.
Two would-be grooms and their prospective brides nearly gave up on festivities planned for Thursday night in light of the Kassam strikes.
Kobi, 26, and Michal, 20, had been dating for less than a year when they decided to marry. The happy couple planned their wedding for the Thursday immediately following Shavuot - one of the most popular days of the year for tying the knot. They booked the Indian restaurant in the pastoral setting of Kibbutz Nir Am.
But last Friday, Kobi began to worry that the Kassam barrages would scare away the guests.
His worst fears were confirmed 48 hours later, when a rocket made a direct hit on the Fauna Restaurant's wood structure, starting a fire that burned it to the ground.
But the bride and groom were not deterred.
"Kobi is a special person," said his younger brother, Eliran. "He's always in a good mood. He said that it happened because it had to, that there must have been a reason."
The same day, the couple discovered that the wedding facility at nearby Kibbutz Gvaram had suddenly become available.
"There were a lot of telephone calls - people heard that the restaurant burned down and wanted to know what was going on," Eliran said.
Two buses ferried Michal's family from Jerusalem and Kiryat Shmona, but the couple didn't know how many of their 500 plus invited guests would attend until just before the wedding.
Erez Halevy and his fianc e, Mira, faced a similar dilemma.
Erez, a sergeant in Golani's 12th Battalion, is set to marry Mira, who teaches in Sderot's religious girls' high school, in two weeks. Until a few weeks ago, the couple planned to hold the traditional henna engagement ceremony in the town where they both grew up - Sderot.
Even after the rockets began to fall in large numbers, the couple wanted to keep to their plans.
"We believed that it should be here. This is our place, and we should keep holding celebrations here," said Erez. But family members coming from quieter areas of the country were not convinced.
"Although we felt strongly that we should do it in Sderot, we felt that it would be unfair to force people to come against their will. We decided to respect our family," he said.
When they realized there was no more time and that the Kassam were not going to stop, the couple decided they hod no choice but to cancel the festive event.
Then, shortly before midnight on Wednesday, the rabbi with whom Erez had studied before his army service called to ask him to come see him.
The infantryman reported to his rabbi, who informed him that he had organized a last-minute ceremony for the couple - in Kiryat Arba. The rabbi told him that "everything was ready, and he just had to show up."
"At first I couldn't believe it," said Erez, "Many people who were not planning on coming even if we had it in Sderot are coming - even if it means coming to Kiryat Arba. We really appreciate it - this act of kindness."
Erez, whose battalion is in active service on the northern border, was given three weeks' leave.
The wedding itself is set for Netivot, a few kilometers from Sderot, but hopefully far enough away that Mira and Erez will not receive any unwelcome surprises.