Israel’s Celebrity Wedding

By Vita Bekker and Forward Staff

Published July 14, 2006.
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The front-page headlines in the Israeli newspapers called it “the wedding of the year.” The guests, some 500 of the hottest celebrities from the worlds of Israeli sports, fashion and entertainment, thronged to a kibbutz catering hall north of Tel Aviv last Sunday to toast the marriage of Israel’s most celebrated beauty queen and one of its most popular basketball stars. But first, 150 close friends and relatives flew to a mansion outside Barcelona, Spain, for a civil wedding ceremony. The reason: The bride is Jewish and the groom is Christian.

The “wedding of the year” joined Netanya-born actress and model Linor Abargil, Miss World 1998, and Lithuanian-born Sarunas Jasikevicius, former point guard for the champion Maccabi Tel Aviv team. Abargil announced her engagement to the 6-foot-4 Jasikevicius last February, prompting a public protest from far-right activist Baruch Marzel, who urged her to call off the wedding unless her intended was converted to Judaism.

Jasikevicius was raised in America and graduated from the University of Maryland. After failing to make the 1998 NBA draft, he returned to Lithuania and led the country’s national team to a bronze medal in the 2000 Summer Olympics. He signed with Maccabi in 2004 and led the team to two Euroleague championships in 2004 and 2005 before signing with the Indiana Pacers last summer.

The bride reportedly wore three different gowns at the two affairs, including a strapless creation by Pnina Turne at the Spanish civil ceremony. The Israeli celebration, described in several press accounts as a “religious wedding,” took place at Kibbutz Ga’ash and reportedly featured a performance by the Soul Messengers, a Black Hebrew singing group from the Negev town of Dimona.

Spokespersons for Abargil and Jasikevicius declined to describe the nature of the religious ceremony, but a spokeswoman for the wedding hall said that there was no rabbi or other officiant presiding — the couple simply exchanged “words of love.” Several sources reported that the festivities included a breaking of the glass by the groom and a traditional Moroccan henna ceremony for the bride. There were unconfirmed reports that the bride visited a mikveh, a Jewish ritual bath, before the wedding.

The Pacers were reported this week to be considering trading Jasikevicius to the Sacramento Kings.

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