On November 21st I arrived in
for a week-long stay for the wedding of my brother David's daughter, Raya. He has been in Jerusalem since the early 80’s, has raised 4 children, Yonatan (Yoni) 29, Raya 25, Rina 21, and Avital 12 in two marriages. He created and nurtures a small non-profit business employing four who help non-profit organizations with resource development, including grantwriting, staff recruitment, professional and lay training, strategic fundraising planning, and whatever else he can do to help them. Jerusalem
I had stayed in
Jerusalem once before for a week and seen some of the sights ( Israel Museum, Old City, Masada, Dead Sea, Tel Aviv). This week, most of my time was spent engaged in the wedding related events scheduled throughout the week. It was a wonderful time with relatives, including nieces and nephews I don’t often see: David’s wife Alisa and her family, Raya’s mother’s family whom I hadn’t seen for years, and the parents and one grandparent of the groom, who came to the wedding from their home in . One theme of the week was how well divorcees and their new families can get along, at least after several years of practice. Chile
The wedding was planned Tuesday of Thanksgiving week, a good time for those of us traveling from
to be able to take time off and a great place to do it. My wife, daughter (early thirties), and I were graciously invited to stay at my brother and sister-in-law’s home. The only child of theirs living there was Avital, recently Bat Mitzvah. The marrying couple, though they share an apartment, was observing the Biblical injunction not to see each other for one week before the wedding. One stayed at the apartment, and the other elsewhere. Yoni works for a tech firm and lives in Tel Aviv, so would spend time staying with various relatives and friends during the week. Rina, finished with her mandatory service in the Israel Defense Force, is managing a Jewish youth program in South Africa. America
The wedding was made more complicated and International by the grooms’ family from
. Michael (pronounced mee chi el’), the groom, has “made aliyah” and moved to Chile . The week following the wedding he was ordained as a rabbi of the Masorati (Conservative) movement in Israel . His father, Hugo, a soccer trainer and massage therapist, has also decided to move to Israel and so will be staying with his son and new daughter-in-law until he finds his own place. Hugo’s wife, from whom he is separated and her mother have come from Santiago as well. Michael has several Spanish speaking friends living in Israel who attend the wedding. The mix of languages becomes something of a joke after awhile. Most of the Spanish speakers can speak either Hebrew or English, so those two languages are most in evidence. Israel
The mood of the week was one of joy and celebration. The young couple, she 25 and he 30 years of age are energetic, happy, and deeply in love. After David picked me up at the airport Sunday evening in Tel Aviv, he brought me to the home of his ex-wife where we were to have a rehearsal for a song that we would perform during the wedding reception. A few other relatives arrived and everyone seemed to break into song and dance spontaneously. “Lai lai lai lai lai lai lai lai laaaii….” David and his children love to sing together, even performing occasionally as the Epstein Family Singers. Both he and Rina play guitar. She writes songs as well, and everyone harmonizes.
(r-l) David (playing guitar), Avital, Raya's G-pa, Raya and Michael (on floor), Yoni, other relatives... my daughter at far left foreground
Included in the singing group for the reception would be David, Rina, Avital, David’s ex-wife, Judy, and her husband, Mencher, who plays guitar and ukulele, and me. David nominated “Teach Your Children” or "Over the Rainbow" as songs that would best express the moment, but Menscher thought Dylan’s “Forever Young” would fit the bill better. Rina didn’t seem terribly happy with either, and after half-heartedly singing the first two for the benefit of any who didn’t know them we devolved into an impasse, trying to come up with a perfect song to express complicated ideas like Raya and Michael’s love, Jewishness (Dylan is Jewish), and support of family. Raya started strumming a song and singing in Hebrew. It was a song she’d written, very simple, beautiful and powerful, with words that spoke of love of place, and the Hebrew words used allowed the metaphor to extend to love of God. Rough summary translation: Allow my legs to walk to the place that my heart loves and open my heart to the place that to which my legs have taken me. After one run-through we knew it was the perfect song for us. We decided on arrangement, harmonies, and within an hour had it ready. My brother wrote down the words phonetically for me, since it’s been years since I tried to read Hebrew. Then I asked Rina if she’d mind if for this occasion I tried to come up with an English version that would more directly express the romantic love between Raya and Michael. She said to give it a shot.
The wedding itself was magnificent. I don’t know for sure in what ways it was typical and in what ways it was innovative, but suffice it to say that before the official ceremony even began we’d been eating, drinking, dancing, and singing for almost two hours. The ceremony itself beautifully wove a variety of music and traditions together. Though several rabbis participated in the ceremony in various ways (Raya’s grandfather on her mother’s side is a Rabbi from the
), it was M.C.’d by Yoni, who wore a headset microphone and translated some of the proceedings. Translations and descriptions of the proceedings had been provided in a program for English and Spanish speakers. And the party and dancing afterwards was so exuberant that I am sure U.S. is currently experiencing a shortage of Advil. Jerusalem
(this is part 1 of what will be a 2 part post; part 2 coming next week)