- Important: All passwords were reset on 06/15/11. Old passwords will no longer work. Click here to retrieve your password.
- Subscribe to Our Free Dewsletter
We are non-commercial, all volunteer and supported by our readers. Please help sustain the Dew by making a donation.
This Israeli Wedding
Though my teaching assistant contract in France finished at the end of April, and May saw my triumphant return to Atlanta, my international travels were far from finished. Within a few weeks of my flight home, I found myself walking through the terminal at Hartsfield Jackson International Airport, ready for another long overseas trip. Accompanied by my parents, my brother, and his girlfriend, I was embarking on another foreign adventure, this time to see my sister’s wedding in Israel.
While I was excited for the trip and the upcoming festivities, as we made our way through the airport I could not help but feel antipathy toward the flying experience. Having just returned from France, and therefore having spent over two hours passing through customs and security before exiting the airport, to say I was not happy to be going through the trials of international travel would be an understatement. This time, however, I was flying with company, which is an unbelievable improvement over a solo experience, and it helped me forget about my present airport situation and focus on the immediate future. I looked forward to the moment when I would be free from airport bondage and finally able to enjoy the wedding, the happiest of occasions.
The seed for the wedding lay in my year in France. This past February, my family came to visit me in France during one of the many two-week vacations the French school system builds into the calendar each year. Included in the group were my sister and her then-boyfriend, who flew into Paris from Israel to spend a week with us. From the moment they landed in Paris, they made a bee-line for the Eiffel Tower, where my future brother-in-law proposed to my sister. As such, our vacation turned into a wonderful celebration of their happiness, and soon after plans began for a wedding in May.
While we knew this wedding would be an experience in discovering another culture’s traditions, we had no real idea what to expect. My brother-in-law, who met my sister over six years ago while working as a security guard for her Birthright tour of Israel, is Israeli, but his family’s origins hail from Yemen. This wedding would be a fascinating mix of intersecting cultures, from American to Israeli to Yemenite. As we passed the time between flying to New York JFK Airport and then to Tel Aviv, Israel, the forthcoming wedding drew many a comparison to the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” We knew it would be huge, with three hundred Israelis attending, and we knew it would be unique, as two nights before the wedding we would attend a Yemenite Henna Ceremony.
After our arrival on Friday night and dinner with my brother-in-law’s family, we rested and anxiously awaited the Henna, scheduled for the next night. I asked my parents what this ceremony was all about, and I was told it was their version of a rehearsal dinner. This turned out to be a bit of a stretch, unless you consider dancing to Yemenite music in traditional costume to be a typical rehearsal dinner. The evening was a splendid event and offered an amazing glimpse into an ancient pre-wedding ceremony, as my sister and her future husband dressed in multiple costumes throughout the night, danced their way through Yemenite tunes, and managed to pull it all off despite a few glitches in setting up the seat arrangements before the ceremony. For those less interested in dancing, there was a magnificent spread of salads, desserts, and drinks, including a local malt-flavored soda, to occupy one’s time. The event culminated in a ritual intended to bless the couple and send them the best of luck. Members of each family took mud from a bowl, placed it in their hands, and spoke a few words about the bride and groom. This last part was a surprise for me, as I had not counted on having to pontificate on the virtues of my sister and brother-in-law; attempting to dance to Yemenite music was almost an easier task. After I stumbled through my speech, and the rest of the family finished theirs, the Henna dwindled down to its finish and the night drew to its close.
As amazing as this ceremony was, it was only matched by the magnificence of the wedding. Two days later, the big event had arrived, and everyone was in full preparations mode. By six o’clock that evening, we were all dressed, pruned, and gathered at the wedding hall. Once again, I found myself feeling like I was on a movie set. The ceremony was held outside, on a beautiful lawn lined with Roman-style columns and white chairs and tables. We treated ourselves to a delicious first course of meat and wine as we waited for the wedding. Once everyone gathered in their chairs, the ceremony commenced. On the stage, underneath a large open canopy known as a Chuppah, stood my sister, brother-in-law, both sets of parents, and the rabbi. As he chanted in Hebrew, photographers swooped all around, snapping the best shots of the Chuppah and its participants. When the ceremony concluded, all three hundred people present rushed the stage to offer hugs, kisses, and the warmest Mazel Tovs possible for the bride and groom. Afterward, everyone headed inside to an enormous dance hall, where a continuous slideshow depicted the best photos of the newlyweds, two more courses of food were served, and no one was left without a dance partner. Even those not enthralled with the heavy dose of hip-hop, electronic, and Yemenite music playing were brought into the group dancing circles. The party, aided of course by the open bar in the hall’s center, continued until the wee hours of the morning, when only those who did not have work the following day were left to dance. Wearily, we drove home that night, blown away by our first Israeli wedding experience.
A few days later, I sat at the terminal in Tel Aviv airport awaiting my return flight to America. This time, I did not dread the tedious flying process. Rather, my mind was still full of thoughts from the trip, and I could not stop comparing this wedding to a typical American wedding. Neither is really that different from the other; a wedding is always a celebration of happiness, love, and life, no matter where it is held. There is a reason people tend to have such fond memories of weddings, as there is an overriding sense of joy present. Though I was amazed at the decadence displayed at this wedding hall, I knew that it was all done to celebrate the love between two people close to me. And the festivities have not yet concluded; come August, there will be a second wedding here in Roswell so that our friends and family in America can attend and wish the best upon my sister and brother-in-law. I can say I happily await part two of this Israeli wedding.
- Photos: By Tom Bledsoe
Worthy of Comment
Also on the Dew
U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey isn’t the first nationally acclaimed wordsmith to make her home in Decatur, Ga. Between 1892 and 1916, Charles W. Hubner (1835-1929), the “Poet Laureate of the South,” lived at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Gordon Street in the city’s southwest quadrant. After a couple of decades in Atlanta, Hubner had a home built in the fashionable East End subdivision, one of the Atlanta Suburban Land Company’s residential ventures in unincorporated DeKalb County along the streetcar line linking Decatur and Atlanta. The Baltimore, Md., native served as a Confederate telegraph officer in the Civil War. After the war, H Read on →
My beloved colleagues in Teh Media sure get on my last damn nerve. Most of the time it's just from sloppy work or jumping on whatever bandwagon is rolling by at the time, something along the lines of a pet peeve. Like when my Twitter list of political reporters blows up with some hashtag meme instead of actual reporting. Today it's #Obamacareinthreewords, launched by that icon of credibility, Rep. Darrell Issa. It's the second time around for that one -- Rep. Kevin McCarthy launched it the first time last June. (@WhiteHouse even got in on it, tweeting "It's.The.Law." Republicans responded with "arrogance Read on →
I had an interesting morning yesterday at the Free Clinic. Once a week I’m a Spanish interpreter in an organization supported by over 400 volunteers who give a few hours a week of their particular expertise in a smoothly run team. We cater for patients with chronic conditions needing regular medication, having no access to health insurance. Yesterday we met a new patient who is deaf and mute since birth. We took her through her eligibility interview with a social worker, then a nurse took her health history, followed by a doctor's consultation and a laboratory test. In the seven years I Read on →
For some reason, a letter from the lobbying arm of the Heritage Foundation was characterized as having been received by NBC News, as if it were some sort of privileged communication. In fact, the thing was a press release and rather obviously designed to change the conversation about the Heritage Foundation from trying to defend the indefensible "study" of Hispanic intellectual insufficiency to food stamps, a real two-fer issue. Two-fer in the sense of being offensive on two fronts since the dollars doled out represent a subsidy to industrial agriculture, even as they serve to remind the indigent that, if they're Read on →