Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Things You Can See at a Wedding

A few weeks ago I wrote about an interesting wedding. Last night we were at an even more interesting one. Actually, from an anthropological perspective, it was one of the strangest convocations I've been at in years.

The bride's maternal grandparent are Holocaust survivors who started from scratch in Tel Aviv of the late 1940s, and climbed to middle-class comfort in one of those rather dreary towns where such people clustered. Like her paternal grandparents, they were what used to be called national religious, which was the Israeli version of the American Modern Orthodox. Her parents are both teachers. The family lives on a settlement, and is there for ideological reasons, not for the cheaper housing. Still, in spite of being on the right wing of the settlers, in summer 2000 they began planning to move; as they told me at the time: "We're in the West Bank to ensure it stays in Israel; if the democratically elected government of Israel decides the West Bank won't be in Israel, we'll be devastated but leave, of course."

The bride also spent three formative years in California, which adds spice to her story. As her cousin remarked to me, "She's the queen of not fitting into anyone's pigeonholes".

The groom's mother comes from a family of very classy, highly educated Jews from Morocco and has at least three famous professors for uncles, including an expert on Arabic. So that's already an interesting twist: it's the Moroccans who are the elite, not the Europeans. The grooms parents, whoever, seemed mostly identified by the fact that they've discovered religion, and are members of a hassidic court that specializes in "retrieving lost Jews". To an outsider, they look like hardcore haredi - but not to the trained eye, which was significant because in the bride's family there is a large wing that is really haredi, and they were also represented at the wedding, eying the newcomers warily.

The groom himself is not haredi of any sort, he's a career soldier in one of those super secret units that get talked about only in hushed tones; but he is orthodox, tho I'm not certain which path he took to get there.

So the crowd yesterday was made up of haredi, psuedo-haredi, old-style national religious, new-fangled settler-born-religious from the infamous noar hagvaot who have renounced the State of Israel for its willingness to negotiate with Palestinians all the way to New Age youth who'd look perfectly at home on the campus of Berkley; you had non-uniformed soldiers from all across the social spectrum; regular secular folks (the type who put on a kippa at a religious wedding) and aggressive secular folks (the type who won't); a handful of European-style Modern orthodox in smart suits or high heels depending on gender. There was a young fellow who was demonstrating his Yemenite origins by dressing like his great grandfather did, and another one who was trying to do the same only with modern attire. Normal, run-of-the-mill regular folks such as I pride myself on being - we were a tiny minority, and eyed one another glumly.

Music is of course central to a wedding so there was a band. Six guys, looking more or less like the rest of the crowd; noteworthy among them was a fellow with a microscopic crew-cut, a large knitted white kippa of the sort preferred by Hamas, who was playing the Scottish bagpipes. I kid you not. Honest. And dancing- hours of it, exuberant, men separate from women except for the bridal couple who were on both sides(and at one point the bride was dancing with the video cameraman while he filmed them at it: there was no video camerawoman). Haredi dancing with bareheaded secular Tev-Aviv types, and everyone else in between. Of course, at one point the dancers were doing Ukrainian Cossack dances, as is customary at Ashkenazi orthodox weddings. The music included Carlebach - created in the 1960s by the hippie scion of a rabbinic family from Hamburg - but also any other type of music you might think of, with one rule: the words of all the songs were traditional. Meaning, verses from the Bible.

So to cap this description, image hundreds of denizens of this menagerie dancing together to the words from Psalm 102 verse 14:
You will arise and have compassion on Zion, for it is time to show favor to her; the appointed time has come.

Tho of course, the Hebrew original is better:
אתה תקום, תרחם ציון: כי-עת לחננה, כי-בא מועד

Yes, the time seems to have come.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Yes. And, now best wishes to the couple, to be happy together.

There's no particular recipe.

Oh, and I noticed in your wonderful descriptive story-telling, that NO POLITICIANS SHOWED UP! All those people, and no Foad Ben-Elizer type.

Also, good to know that there are Israelis willing to commit to the IDF. Where plenty of spirit "co-mingles."

As to Scottish Bag Pipes, I was told by a mom, who is a good friend of mine, that her son picked up the bag pipes, guaranteeing him a spot in his high school's band. And, it was much easier to learn than other instruments. Maybe, through instruments, other cultures inter-lap with our own? My girl friend's Jewish. When her sons married? The younger one had a conventional wedding. While her older son went the route of the Renaisance Faire.

One of Martin Buber's famous observations was that faith belongs in the heart. And, it gets there, when in the beginning, a man fell in love with his wife. Here, Buber points out that to be truly a good husband, a man has to consider his wife's needs. And, then he has to be generous.

Where do you find love? In your heart. Where do you find faith? Same place.