The happiest event in Jewish life is a wedding, the moment when two worlds/two families become one.
I flew back to Israel last month for my sister’s wedding celebrations. It was a wedding of two different Jewish cultures – Moroccan (my sister) and Yemenite. A wedding that represents the multiple cultures in Israel.
One of the traditional ceremonies in both the Moroccan and Yemenite cultures is the henna, which symbolizes the change from single life to a relationship. We baked traditional cookies with my grandmother to get ready for the Henna.
The person who applies the henna to the bride’s palms must be someone who is known to be happily married. The henna was made from dried henna leaves, and the process of applying it took a long time. For this reason, it was suggested that it be applied between 32 and 48 hours before the wedding so that it had enough time to stain the skin.
The henna ceremony included a big meal, songs (my grandmother sang to my sister), dancing with the cookies, and giving gifts to the bride and the groom, but the main part is to put some of the past in each participant’s palm.
The wedding was a week after the Henna. The security situation was getting worse the day before, but we never expected what happened.
The wedding was at a kibbutz close to Kfar Saba, in the center of Israel, north of Tel Aviv. Everything in Israel was just starting to return to normal after the pandemic, and there was a security guy at the entrance who checked for green passports (people who are vaccinated or recovered).
As the bride and groom stood before the Huppah, after signing the ketubbah, we heard a siren. We ran out of the building and lay down on the ground, all my sisters and I in our pretty clothes, and the bride in her white wedding dress, lying down on the ground. Then we saw the Iron Dome defense system in action.
After some minutes, we got up and moved to the big party, glad to celebrate as usual despite the siren and the rockets.
This is most Israeli: One moment to be on the ground and worried about our loved ones, and moments afterward to dance, sing and be the happiest people in the world.
This is Israel!
OR COHEN is the Israeli shlichah (Emissary) for the Jewish Alliance.