The wedding of course is the reason that I got on a plane and flew a very long way. My cousin married an Israeli and they decided to have the wedding here. It was a very big event and I was really shocked by how many Perthies were there - we had a Perth people photo and it was huge!
The wedding was held somewhere that was an hour drive from Tel Aviv. We ended up getting a lift from my mother's cousin and his wife who were also going. They were my family away from home when I was living here years ago. Their's was the house I hopped on a bus (from Haifa) to go to for the weekend when I was homesick or when I ran out of money for food or when I had no plans or whatever. And I got to be very close to them. And coming all this way was also partly about getting to sit down and have a coffee with Z and just hang out. And I got to do that on Monday before the wedding! We caught a taxi to their place and hung for a bit. And it was so great! There was this amazing feeling of coming home as I got in the lift up to the 4th floor (which I remembered even though I hadn't thought about it probably in 9 years) and then their apartment door was open and they were smiling and "Shalom Shalom!" and "Aleeezah! You haven't changed a bit!" Ahhhh ... it was great!!!
And so eventually we piled into the car and off we went, with Z pointing out all the new things that have been built or torn down since I was last there. So ... we got to the wedding venue (the Magical Garden) an hour early and it was hoooooooot. Anyway, lots of people were already there including my uncle and aunt and cousins and whatnot. And there was this lovely outdoors area to hang out in to take photos and greet people as they arrived.
My uncle (D) and I doing just that, below. See the outrageous cleavage? Everyone else was covered from chin to toes except my cousin's wife. And ... I dunno. There it is. Will have to see what the family photos look like.
We had wine. We caught up with family as they arrived - a lot of my mother's side of the family (cousins) live here and almost all of them came. So we spent the next two hours catching up. There was even a pre-wedding buffet spread that came out. It was about at this time, that I deeply regretted how crap my Hebrew is. I'm not too bad listening and can follow conversations reasonably well - family talking to one another at pace has me understanding about 50% of what is going on. But as soon as they ask me to join in, forget it! So annoying too because I so much wanted to get into in-depth conversations and had to limit these by their English - most of them speak excellent English however (so that's more me being annoyed at not being bilingual enough).
So, some wedding shots. The chair below is the bridal seat - the bride comes out before the ceremony and sits on this chair for viewing. Family and friends sing and dance to surround the bride with joy before the groom comes out to view her. The groom is brought out surrounded by singing and dancing (and slightly drunk) men to greet the bride, check this is the one he was after and then he places the veil over her. Agreeing basically to marry her (see Jacob and Leah and Rachel in the Bible for the significance)
Here also is the Chuppah - the bridal canopy - this is what Jewish people get married standing under. Everyone's looks different and they can be as simple as a Tallis (prayer shawl) and four sticks (one in each corner) held by 4 men to the fancy one here. The bride, groom, their families and the Rabbi all stand underneath for the whole ceremony.
The wedding ceremony itself was at least an hour late, maybe more. I would like to report more about it but unfortunately was not able to watch it live due to the cameramen standing in exactly the way ALL the time. I couldn't see the veiling of the bride, I mostly couldn't see her walk around the groom 7 times and could hardly see any of the actual ceremony. The groom smashed the glass and apparently they were married! She'koach! Mazal Tov! I went up to congratulate everyone and my aunt yelled at me "You're next! I have someone to introduce you to!"
And then we went inside for food. There were no speeches at all. The wedding party came in for the first round of dancing after the first course. There was much traditional (chassidic, apparently - I never knew we did chassidic traditions, I thought those were orthodox) dancing and then more food. I accidentally ate meat cause the waiter said the course choice I ordered had no meat but he was wrong! So annoyed and nearly threw the plate across the room (in a style well developed by my grandmother) and he brought me a borekes (pastry with mashed potato inside). I was mostly annoyed that I had eaten meat without intending to, I really hate that.
We weren't seated with our Israeli fam so we instead just went over to their table and hung out with them - heck, I flew all this way to be with them, I wasn't going to miss out on one second of getting to be in and amongst the dynamic. I have to say, I love them so much! They are such an amazing group of people - such fantastic and wicked senses of humour, so kind and caring. And they love me unconditionally - I hardly know them and they were so happy to see me, some of them met me for the first time, and they wanted to know about me and what I do and they were so interested. They want me to send them 2012 so they can read it and they want to stay in touch with me. It's a feeling I cannot express to be so unconditionally welcomed, loved and accepted. And I have made myself a promise that I will not leave it 10 years to come back and I will come back regularly and often in my life. I am heartbroken to live so far away from them.
I should add that this is my mother's father's side of the family. My grandfather passed away when I was 6 and I miss him terribly. So many members of the family remind me of him and his nature that being amongst them is the closest I can get to him.
And so ... that was the wedding. For me it was about family - being with family and sharing in family simchas (happinesses, happy events). And in truth, at the core, this is really what being Jewish means to me. And ... I am so happy and glad I came and did not miss out on this. It was worth it. 1000 times, it was worth it!